Iran admits to use of locally mined uranium
Revelation comes on eve of resumption of nuclear talks.
Iran took a step towards nuclear self-sufficiency today, using locally mined uranium for the first time in an act of defiance to the west on the eve of the resumption of talks over its atomic programme, writes the Guardian newspaper.
The Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran announced it had used domestically produced uranium yellowcake (refined ore) at its conversion plant in Isfahan.
The mining and milling of uranium ore is not banned by UN resolutions (which focus on uranium enrichment), but one of the ways the international community has sought to close down Iran's nuclear programme is to stop it importing yellowcake.
Today's announcement appeared to a signal that such measures would not stop Iran pursuing its nuclear ambitions. For the time being, however, it is little more than a symbolic step as Iran's ore deposits are mostly low grade and its capacity to produce yellowcake is limited.
The timing of the announcement is unlikely to be accidental, observers said, coming the day before Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, is due to meet diplomats from six major powers in Geneva, to resume a dialogue over Iran's ambitions after a break of 14 months.
The regime has shown no sign of making concessions over the central issue – UN demands for Iran to suspend its enrichment of uranium. Tehran insists the programme is for entirely peaceful means, and portrays the UN sanctions against it as an attempt to deny its sovereign rights.
The yellowcake delivered to Isfahan today came from the Gchine mine at Bandar Abbas on the Persian Gulf. It is an open-cast mine described by International Atomic Energy Agency of having "low but variable grade uranium ore".
The agency predicted it would produce 21 tonnes of yellowcake a year – about one-tenth of the amount that an industrial reactor would require.