The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization announced on Saturday the discovery of high reserve of uranium soon to be extracted from a new mine.
Iran’s announcement has left critics of the nuclear deal questioning the strength of the agreement, which was structured on the basis of assessments by Western experts that Iran had a small and dwindling supply of fuel for their nuclear program, forcing them to import uranium ore, which is heavily regulated and monitored.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear accord between Iran and P5+1 world powers, is based on regulating the Islamic Republic’s use of uranium. Iran has been accused in the past of trying to acquire uranium ore, called yellowcake, illicitly from other countries such as Kazakhstan and Zimbabwe.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s nuclear program, was quoted by the Iranian news agency IRNA as saying, “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.”
Salehi said extraction of the ore was all ready to begin at the new mine in the province of Yazd. According to a report by the Institute for Science and International Security, Salehi was implicated in an Iranian attempt to acquire illicit nuclear technologies from a European supplier during the 1980’s and 1990’s.
In a 2013 report published by US think-tanks Carnegie Endowment and the Federation of American Scientists, experts stated that the scarcity and low quality of Iran’s uranium resources would require the country “to rely on external sources of natural and processed uranium…Despite the Iranian leadership’s assertions to the contrary, Iran’s estimated uranium endowments are nowhere near sufficient to supply its planned nuclear program.”
Uranium is used for peaceful nuclear energy programs, but it is also an essential ingredient for producing nuclear weapons. Iran has achieved a complete nuclear program which includes every step for taking raw uranium and producing nuclear rods. Though the JCPOA agreement has re-purposed some installations, it has left Iran’s nuclear program effectively intact.