Iran inaugurates new uranium mine, processing plant
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Iran inaugurates new uranium mine, processing plant

Defiant Tehran marks ‘National Nuclear Technology Day’ after latest round of talks with Western powers fails to produce deal

Iranian technicians working at a facility producing uranium fuel for a planned heavy water nuclear reactor, outside Isfahan, in 2009. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
Iranian technicians working at a facility producing uranium fuel for a planned heavy water nuclear reactor, outside Isfahan, in 2009. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurated two new nuclear facilities on Tuesday at a ceremony marking the country’s “National Nuclear Technology Day”: the Saghand uranium mining complex near Ardakan, in central Iran, and the Shahid Rezayeenejad yellowcake production facility.

Ardakan governor Ahmad Kamali told Iranian news sources that at the Saghand mine, uranium ore was extracted from a depth of 350 meters, and was then sent to the Shahid Rezayeenejad facility to be converted into yellowcake.

Yellowcake is a uranium concentrate in powder form that is used in the manufacturing of uranium fuel and fuel rods, among other things.

The inauguration came hot on the heels of a round of failed nuclear talks between Iranian and Western negotiators.

Ahmadinejad, who addressed the inauguration ceremony via video conference, praised Iran’s latest nuclear achievements, Press TV reported.

On Monday, a leading Iranian lawmaker warned that Tehran would keep the option of withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty on the table and would seriously consider it if the West intensified sanctions or referred its case to the UN Security Council.

Alaeddin Boroujerdi said Iran could remain an NPT member while it was being punished for exercising its nuclear rights, while offering terms for a deal at the same time — halting high-quality enrichment in exchange for cancellation of punishing Western sanctions.

“It’s not acceptable that Iran respects NPT but the US and the West ignore NPT’s Article 6 — reducing nuclear weapons — and Article 4 — right to enrichment,” Boroujerdi said, according to the state TV’s Al-Alam website.

The West fears Iran may be aiming to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran has denied the charges, saying its program is geared toward generating electricity and producing radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.

The latest round of talks between Iran and a group of six world powers, in Kazakhstan over the weekend, failed to narrow the differences. The six want Iran to stop its highest level uranium enrichment — 20 percent — and shut down its underground Fordo enrichment site as confidence-building measures.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton at the start of high-level talks between world powers and Iranian officials in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Friday, April 5, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Shamil Zhumatov)
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton at the start of high-level talks between world powers and Iranian officials in Almaty, Kazakhstan, Friday, April 5, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Shamil Zhumatov)

In return, and only after confirmation from the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has implemented the measures, the US and European Union would suspend sanctions on gold and precious metals, and the export of petrochemicals. But severe sanctions including a ban on exporting oil and restrictions on banking would remain in place.

Iran said the proposal by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany is “not balanced” and “not proportionate.” Iran’s income from oil and gas exports has dropped by 45 percent as a result of the sanctions.

Some members of the US Congress are pushing for even stricter sanctions against Tehran in the wake of the failed talks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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