Tehran, 13 Sep – Iran has discovered an unexpectedly high reserve of uranium and will soon begin extracting the radioactive element at a new mine, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation Ali Akbar Salehi said on Saturday.
Any indication Iran could become more self-sufficient in its nuclear programme will be closely watched by world powers, which reached a landmark deal with Tehran on 14 July over its programme. They had feared the nuclear activities were aimed at acquiring the capability to produce atomic weapons.
“I cannot announce (the level of) Iran’s uranium mine reserves. The important thing is that before aerial prospecting for uranium ores we were not too optimistic, but the new discoveries have made us confident about our reserves”, Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.
Salehi said uranium exploration had covered almost two-thirds of Iran and would be complete in the next four years.
Uranium can be used for scientific purposes and civilian power production, but is also a key ingredient in nuclear weapons.
The 14 July deal between Tehran and world powers will lift international sanctions on Iran in exchange for at least a decade of curbs on the country’s nuclear activity.
The US State Department said any new reserves of uranium discovered in Iran will be under the same monitoring as other existing mines under the nuclear agreement.
“Any violation of that commitment would be met with the appropriate response”, State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement, Reuters reported.
Salehi said uranium extraction was set to begin at a new mine in Yazd, a central province in Iran, according to IRNA.