Iran launches production of banned carbon fiber

AP News
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Posted: Aug 27, 2011 4:23 AM
Iran launches production of banned carbon fiber

Iran has inaugurated its own production of carbon fiber, a material under U.N. embargo because of its potential use in the country's controversial nuclear program, the official IRNA news agency reported Saturday.

Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi said Iran decided to manufacture the strategic material domestically since it could no longer access carbon fiber on foreign markets because of the international sanctions.

"Because of the restrictions imposed by the enemies, Iran faced challenges in getting access to carbon fiber," Vahidi was quoted by IRNA as saying.

"That had caused a bottleneck in Iran's production of advanced and smart defense systems," Vahidi said. He claimed Iran has mastered the entire process of carbon fiber production.

Iran uses carbon fiber for more advanced centrifuges, which spin uranium gas to produce enriched uranium. Low-enriched uranium can be used as nuclear fuel while highly enriched uranium can be used in a warhead.

The West suspects Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Iran denies the charge and says its uranium enrichment is only geared toward peaceful activities, such as power generation.

Carbon fiber is extremely strong, light and flexible, with high tolerance for heat. It can be used in aerospace and civil engineering, as well as for military purposes. Its production is extremely complex.

Iran often makes announcements of technical and military advancements but those reports cannot be independently verified.

The United Nations has imposed four rounds of Security Council sanctions over Tehran's refusal to halt the enrichment. Iran has been producing low-enriched uranium for years and began higher enrichment in February 2010, asserting it needs the higher grade material to produce fuel for a Tehran reactor that makes medical radioisotopes, needed for cancer patients.

Because of the U.N. ban on sales of carbon fiber to Iran, Tehran has previously had to buy it on foreign markets, presumably through middlemen. It has not disclosed where it obtained previous batches.