Iran has announced the discovery of new deposits of raw uranium to feed its nuclear programme and has identified sites for 16 more nuclear power stations, just days before talks with Western powers over its disputed atomic programme.
The Iran Atomic Energy Organisation report cited by the state news agency, IRNA, on Saturday said the deposits had been found in “southern coastal areas” and had trebled the amount outlined in previous estimates.
There was no independent confirmation but Western experts had previously thought that Iran, with few uranium mines of its own, may be close to exhausting its supply of raw uranium.
Diplomats say the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, the “P5+1”, are set to offer Iran some relief from their sanctions at the talks in Kazakhstan on Tuesday if it agrees to curb its production of higher-grade enriched uranium.
The West says the production demonstrates Tehran’s intent to develop nuclear weapons capability, an allegation which Iran denies.
The enriched uranium required for use in nuclear reactors or weapons is produced in centrifuges that spin uranium hexafluoride gas at high speeds. The uranium hexafluoride is derived from yellowcake, a concentrate from uranium ore.
Iran’s reserves of raw uranium stood at around 4,400 tonnes taking into account discoveries over the past 18 months, IRNA quoted the report as saying.
The report also said 16 sites had been identified for the construction of nuclear power stations.
It did not specify the exact locations but said they included coastal areas of the Gulf, Sea of Oman, Khuzestan province and coastal areas of the Caspian Sea. (The Guardian)