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Iran Announces New Uranium Mines After Talks Fail

Amy Farina

Iran disclosed a new uranium production facility and two extraction mines on Tuesday to mark “National Nuclear Day” following last weeks stalled nuclear talks over the country’s enrichment program. Iran opened Saghand 1 and 2 uranium mines in Yazd in central Iran, and the Shahid Rezaeinejad yellow cake factory.

According to Iranian state-run television, the Ardakan facility in Yazd annually produces 60 tons of yellowcake, an impure state of uranium oxide used in the uranium enrichment process. Although the opening of these new production plants do not constitute a technological breakthrough for Iranian nuclear capabilities, the new facilities produce more raw materials needed to enrich nuclear fuel into weapons grade uranium.

Secretary of Iran Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Saeed Jalili is responsible for leading the Islamic Republic’s delegation at the “P5+1” talks. (Photo: Iran-UN.org)

The announcement came two days after failed talks in Kazakhstan between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany) regarding Tehran’s nuclear program. Western diplomats hoped that Iran would adopt confidence building measures, such as freezing production of near weapons grade uranium. In return, Iran could be offered relief from some economic sanctions. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that the “door was still open” for negotiations but urged Iranian leaders to address international concerns that they are planning to produce nuclear weapons. A U.S. panel of experts last week, called for the Obama administration to reach out and make the case to the Iranian people. However, Tehran’s new announcement demonstrates the country’s intention to expand its nuclear program despite sanctions and diplomatic pressure.

In February, the six world powers met Iranian leaders and urged them to suspend enrichment work at Fordo and slow the production of nuclear fuel. In addition, the six concluded that Iran could keep a small quantity of 20% enriched uranium for the production of medical isotopes.

As a result of continued uranium enrichment, members of Congress continue to push for sanctions against the Islamic Republic. A recently drafted Senate bill punishes foreign countries conducting business with any Iranian government controlled entity. Additionally, it would ban Iran from using earnings from oil exports to buy anything other than food and medicine.