AP: Iranian scientists have developed technology to produce zirconium, a key metal used in the heart of a nuclear reactor to produce nuclear fuel, a top nuclear official said Monday.
"Iranian scientists have achieved the technology to design and produce zirconium, the world's most sophisticated nuclear metal," Mansour Habashizadeh told state-run radio. Associated Press

Iranian scientists have developed technology to produce zirconium, a key metal used in the heart of a nuclear reactor to produce nuclear fuel, a top nuclear official said Monday.

"Iranian scientists have achieved the technology to design and produce zirconium, the world's most sophisticated nuclear metal," Mansour Habashizadeh told state-run radio.

Habashizadeh, head of the Iranian Center for Research and Production of Nuclear Fuel in the central city of Isfahan, said the metal is used in the heart of a nuclear reactor and used as protector of nuclear fuel.

He gave no further details, including where it will be produced, and it was not immediately clear what prompted the announcement. He did say that only two important industrialized countries are currently able to produce the metal.

Zirconium is a grayish-white material that ignites spontaneously at high temperature. A naturally occurring substance, it can be found in the earth's crust, but not typically in large deposits.

Zirconium alloy cladding is also used for nuclear fuel tubes used in the reactor core at the heart of the nuclear reactor.

Iran is under international pressure to give up its nuclear enrichment program, which critics, led by the United States, allege is part of Tehran's bid to make nuclear weapons.

Iran denies it has any atomic weapons ambitions and says its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at generating energy.