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Iran selects 16 sites suitable for nuclear plants

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran has selected 16 locations as suitable for new nuclear power plants it intends to build to boost its energy production over the next 15 years, authorities said on Saturday.

The Islamic republic says it needs 20 large-scale plants to meet its growing electricity needs over the next one-and-a-half decades. It currently operates a 1,000-megawat nuclear power plant at Bushehr, a coastal town on the Persian Gulf, and is planning to build a 360-megawatt nuclear power plant in the southwestern town of Darkhovin.

"The whole country has been studied in the past years," said Vice President Fereidoun Abbasi, who also heads Iran's atomic energy organization. "Adequate locations, on the basis of global parameters, were probed and 16 locations at various parts of the country were identified," he said in comments published by the semiofficial ISNA news agency.

A statement released by his organization said the sites were chosen in part for their resistance to earthquakes and military air strikes.

"Geologic, demographic, topographic, seismic, meteorological and hydrologic criteria as well as access to power transmission lines ... were given into consideration," it said.

Separately, state TV said the country has discovered new uranium resources in what it characterized as a "big discovery." As U.N. sanctions ban Iran from importing any nuclear material, it has focused on developing domestic uranium reserves.

The U.S. and some of its allies fear that Iran could ultimately be able to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran has denied the charges, saying its nuclear program is geared merely toward peaceful purposes such as generating electricity and producing nuclear medical radioisotopes for medical use — not atomic bombs.

Iran also has a considerable stock of yellowcake uranium, a lightly processed substance it acquired from South Africa in the 1970s under the former U.S.-backed shah's original nuclear program. It also has unspecified quantities of yellowcake obtained from China before U.N. sanctions came into effect.

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