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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Awww. Iran running out of uranium

Iran is running out of uranium with which to manufacture nuclear weapons, and surprisingly, no one wants to sell it any. By the way, the image at top left is a satellite image of Iran's Natanz nuclear facility.
Diplomatic sources believe that Iran’s stockpile of yellow cake uranium, produced from uranium ore, is close to running out and could be exhausted within months. Countries including Britain, the US, France and Germany have started intensive diplomatic efforts to dissuade major uranium producers from selling to Iran.

Before Christmas, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office sent out a confidential request for its diplomats in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Brazil, all major uranium producers, to lobby governments not to sell uranium products, specifically yellow cake, to Iran.

Iran’s stock of yellow cake, acquired from South Africa in the 1970s under the Shah’s original civil nuclear power programme, has almost run out. Iran is developing its own uranium mines, but does not have enough ore to support a sustained nuclear programme.
But don't count your chickens before they are hatched.
It is a move that, while unlikely to cripple any effort to develop a bomb, would blunt its ambitions and help to contain the threat, authoritative sources said.

Kazakhstan, with 15 per cent of the world’s deposits, is an increasingly important player in the global uranium trade and has set a target this year to become the world’s largest producer.

Uzbekistan, where British officials are involved in a similar lobbying exercise, also has large deposits and was a leading supplier for weapons-grade material during Soviet times.

While there is no direct evidence that Iran has actively sought to buy uranium from either country, Western intelligence sources view them as one of a number of potential weak spots in the supply chain.


To reach weapons-grade uranium-235, Iran would have to produce a highly enriched fuel, and that requires thousands of centrifuges. It is estimated that 200kg of yellow cake could produce 1kg of weapons-grade (94 per cent enriched) uranium. About 20kg of highly enriched uranium are required for one bomb.

Iran, which has always claimed that its nuclear programme is peaceful, acquired several thousand tonnes of yellow cake from South Africa during the mid-1970s shortly after the Shah initiated the country’s original push for civil nuclear power. Tehran also has two small uranium mines but they are costly to run, yield only small quantities of ore and are suffering from problems with purity.


Any move by the Iranians to buy stocks of uranium from other countries could be interpreted two ways: either as an investment for what they claim is a genuine civil nuclear power programme or as an insurance policy for a future successful weapons project.

Iran is subject to a comprehensive safeguards agreement under which IAEA inspectors are meant to make checks to ensure that Tehran is not trying to divert nuclear material for a civil power programme to a military one. The agreement, however, covers only named installations that do not include the mines, and there remain a series of unanswered questions which have raised serious concerns about Iran’s motives. UN Security Council Resolution 1737 prohibits countries from supplying any items “which could contribute to Iran’s enrichment-related . . . activities”. Few, if any, of the big producers would want to take the risk of doing business with Iran.

However, the frantic efforts to make sure that producing countries hold the line highlight the growing challenge of containing the uranium trade at a time when it is expanding briskly. Governments around the world are looking to nuclear energy as an answer to concerns about energy.
Read the whole thing. It's hopeful but not a complete answer to the problem.


At 7:26 PM, Blogger What is "Occupation" said...

Maybe it's time to start smuggling arms to folks INSIDE iran...

Maybe its' time for Iran to loss it's oil refineries..

Maybe it's time to cause some economic disasters to befall our enemies...

After all they are non-stop funding and arming out enemies...

At 9:46 PM, Blogger Steven said...

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

At 10:20 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Brasil to Venezuela to Iran - over

At 3:11 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Iran is not going to let a little matter like running low on uranium deter it from building The Bomb. The Iranian Threat is still a very real one.

At 9:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If they had tons of yellow cake and are running low now, how much enriched uranium do they already have? I hope the leaders of my country are thinking about that. Also I agree with the first poster.

At 10:27 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Iran has 1400 uranium mines on its own soil and is not running out of uranium in this century.

At 10:49 PM, Blogger 6thSense said...

Some numbers seems either very strange or very scary:
if - according to article - one bomb requires 4 tons (200x20) of uranium ore, and Iran got several thousand tons of ore before - how many bombs are they planning to make? Over 250? That's really scary.


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