Iran Nuclear NewsIran to Inaugurate Uranium Ore Plant

Iran to Inaugurate Uranium Ore Plant

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AP: Iran will inaugurate a uranium ore concentrate production plant near the southern port city of Bandar Abbas within a year, Iran’s nuclear chief said.
Gholamreza Aghazadeh was quoted by state-run radio on Sunday as saying the Bandar Abbas Yellowcake Production Plant would open during the next Iranian calendar year, which begins March 21. Associated Press

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran will inaugurate a uranium ore concentrate production plant near the southern port city of Bandar Abbas within a year, Iran’s nuclear chief said.

Gholamreza Aghazadeh was quoted by state-run radio on Sunday as saying the Bandar Abbas Yellowcake Production Plant would open during the next Iranian calendar year, which begins March 21.

The nuclear facility will process ore extracted from uranium mine into uranium ore concentrate, known as yellowcake. The processing is part of the early stages before actual enrichment of uranium.

The uranium ore concentrate can then be processed into uranium hexaflouride, which later can be turned into a gas used as feedstock for enriching uranium.

Uranium enriched to low grades is used for fuel in nuclear reactors, but further enrichment makes it suitable for atomic bombs.

The United States accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons but Tehran has denied the accusation saying its nuclear program was geared solely toward making generating electricity, not making bomb.

While not prohibited from enrichment under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran suspended uranium enrichment and all related activities in November to build trust and reduce international suspicions. The International Atomic Energy Agency agreed to police the suspension of Iran’s nuclear activities.

Under an agreement reached with France, Germany and Britain, which negotiated on behalf of the European Union, Iran will continue suspension of its enrichment activities during negotiations with the Europeans about EU economic, political and technological aid. Iran has said it will decide within three months whether to continue suspension.

It was not clear if ongoing work in Bandar Abbas constituted a breach of Iran’s commitments.

Last October, the National Council of Resistance of Iran claimed to have uncovered more evidence that Iran’s nuclear activities are broader than it has publicly admitted, saying Iran has a hidden uranium processing plant near Bandar Abbas.

But Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s former envoy to the Vienna-based IAEA, said Iran had informed the agency in 2003 about the Bandar Abbas facility.

“The Bandar Abbas facility is nothing new that Iranian opponents claim they disclosed. We informed the IAEA about two years ago about the plant,” said Salehi, now a nuclear adviser to Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi.

In its report to the Board of Governors in Nov. 2004, the IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei talked about the facility.

“In the south of Iran, near Bandar Abbas, Iran has constructed the Gehine uranium mine and its co-located mill. The low but variable grade uranium ore found in near-surface deposits will be open-pit mined and processed at the associated mill,” ElBaradei said in the report.

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