Iran: We can make our own 'yellowcake' uranium now

One day before starting a new round of talks with world powers in Geneva, Iran announced Sunday that it had mined its own uranium to be used to make nuclear energy – or nuclear weapons.

By , Correspondent

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    Chief of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali-Akbar Salehi cuts a ribbon during a ceremony to take delivery of locally produced yellowcake, a uranium concentrate powder, at the UCF plant in Isfahan 414 kilometres (257 miles) south of Tehran December 5, 2010.
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Iran announced on Sunday that its entire nuclear fuel cycle is now self-sufficient.

With two-day talks beginning in Geneva tomorrow between six world powers and Iran, Iranian leaders say they want to deliver the message that the nuclear program will progress even with international sanctions.

Iran’s top atomic chief and vice president Ali Akbar Salehi said on Sunday that for the first time the Islamic Republic had delivered uranium mined domestically to an Iranian processing unit.

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Iran had bought “yellowcake,” uranium concentrate powder, from South Africa in the 1970s. But Reuters notes that analysts in the West say Iran may be close to depleting this supply.

"The West had counted on the possibility of us being in trouble over raw material but today we had the first batch of yellowcake from Gachin mine sent to Isfahan [conversion] facility," Salehi said on state TV, Agence France-Press reports.

"No matter how much effort they put into their sanctions ... our nuclear activities will proceed and they will witness greater achievements in the future," he said, according to the Associated Press.

The US and many Western powers accuse Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon.

Iran, for its part, maintains that it wants nuclear fuel for civilian energy and medical purposes. Uranium enriched to low grades is used in nuclear reactors for fuel, while uranium enriched further can be used for an atomic bomb. According to Salehi, the whole delivery of the yellowcake was done under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Iran: Attacks on nuclear scientists no deterrent

Salehi also addressed last week’s attacks on Iranian scientists in the televised news conference, saying these also will not deter nuclear development. One was assassinated in Tehran and another was injured in a bombing. Iran’s intelligence minister Heidar Moslehi called the attacks terrorism and said that they were carried out with the support of the CIA, Israel’s Mossad, and Britain’s MI6.

"Assassination of Iranian scientists will not hamper our progress,” Salehi said, according to Iran’s Press TV.

Despite the timing and pointedness of Salehi’s announcement, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that Iran’s uranium enrichment will not be discussed in the six-power talks in Geneva, Reuters adds.

Iran seeks a 'protracted diplomatic process'

The US, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany haggled with Iran for months over the location and size of the talks. But Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, argues in a commentary in the Los Angeles Times that Iran is seeking a “protracted diplomatic process” with at best modest concessions.

He adds that Iran is taking advantage of pointed international anxiety over its nuclear program to increase repression at home, arresting “scores” of lawyers and activists in recent weeks:

Indeed, Tehran’s principal motivation for participating in the talks has little to do with its nuclear file and much to do with its desire to fracture international unity, relieve financial distress and, most important, gain a free hand in suppressing its opposition "green movement." …
At ease with the notion that the global community's preoccupation with gradations of enrichment and spinning centrifuges will divert it from pressing Iran on its human rights record, the mullahs typically escalate their repression at home before dispatching their diplomats abroad.

Takeyh adds that sanctions have had a “dramatic impact” on Iran’s economy and that the Islamic Republic’s mullahs are putting their hope in China and Russia to defend them against further sanctions as the negotiations draw on.

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