Iran is continuing with its nuclear program despite stiff opposition from the west. The country announced on Sunday that it had used domestically mined uranium to make material for its uranium enrichment for the first time.
The progress was called symbolic by western experts but not seen as substantive. There was still speculation on if Iran was accelerating its uranium enrichment program to attain fuel for its nuclear reactors of make atom bombs.
A coarse powder is obtained from uranium in the first of a number of complex steps which convert uranium mined as ore into suitable for use in reactors. This uranium concentrate is called ‘yellowcake’. So far Iran has been dependant on imported yellowcake, majority of which came from South Africa in the 1970s.
The roughly 600 tons of yellowcake were imported when the then ruler, Shah Reza Pahlavi wished to propagate nuclear power. Much of this has been converted into nuclear fuel at the Natanz nuclear fuel plant in Iran.
Iran also has two uranium mines at Saghand and Gachin. However nuclear analysts feel that the low grade uranium at Saghand is unsuited to the conversion into nuclear fuel. They fear that while the uranium supply is not nearly enough for Iran to develop a nuclear power program it is more than enough to develop a small arsenal of nuclear weapons.