x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Iran reports nuclear advance before Geneva talks

Iran will use domestically produced uranium concentrates for the first time at a key plant in its nuclear programme today, a senior official said, a day before the Islamic state resumes talks with world powers.

TEHRAN // Iran will use domestically produced uranium concentrates for the first time at a key plant in its nuclear programme today, a senior official said, a day before the Islamic state resumes talks with world powers.

The news appeared designed to signal Iran's determination to press ahead with its nuclear activities, which it says are for peaceful power generation but the West fears are aimed at making bombs, ahead of the December 6-7 meeting in Geneva.

The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation said Iranian experts would use yellowcake, a uranium concentrate powder, processed in the country, at the Isfahan conversion plant.

The country has previously used yellowcake bought from South Africa in the 1970s, but some western analysts have said Iran may be close to exhausting its supply of the material.

"The first consignment of yellowcake from (the city of) Bandar Abbas was received today at the Isfahan nuclear site. Of course, the whole process was under the supervision of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency)," nuclear energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi told a televised news conference.

The enriched uranium required for use in nuclear reactors or weapons is produced in centrifuges that spin uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6) at high speeds. The UF6 is derived in a reaction from yellowcake, a concentrate processed from mined uranium ore.

Enriched uranium can be used to fuel power plants and, if refined much further, to provide material for bombs. The West wants Iran to suspend enrichment, something Tehran has refused.

"Over the next five years we hope we can reach a point when Iran can meet all nuclear fuel needs inside the country," Mr Salehi said.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Iran's uranium enrichment will not be discussed at the Geneva talks, though it is the central concern of the six world powers - the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - that will be present.