Iran says it needs 20 percent enriched uranium to make fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran that produces isotopes for about 1 million patients annually.
Abbasi also said Iran will soon conduct a test run of its heavy water reactor in Arak in central Iran, despite demands from the U.N. to stop the work. The test will use virtual fuel, not actual radioactive material, he said.
He said construction of the 40-megawatt research reactor is progressing on schedule, but he noted that experts are handling the project with greater care in anticipation of possible sabotage attempts.
"The Arak reactor is progressing without any problem according to the schedule. Only because of security considerations, we are moving with caution, since enemy intends to harm this reactor," he was quoted by state TV as saying. "All the equipment needed to operate this reactor has been purchased."
The West is concerned that the heavy water reactor could produce enough plutonium for a nuclear weapon each year, if the spent fuel is reprocessed. That would be another pathway for bomb-grade material, but Iran is not known to possess a plutonium reprocessing facility
Iran has experienced explosions and malfunctions at its nuclear and industrial sites, partly due to faulty equipment secretly procured on the global market.
Also, Iran says it is the target of a campaign that has included the abduction and assassination of scientists, the sale of faulty equipment and the planting of a destructive computer worm known as Stuxnet, which briefly brought Iran's uranium enrichment activity to a halt in 2010.