Iran, celebrating its annual National Nuclear Technology Day amid pressure to curb its program, said it opened a uranium processing facility in the central Yazd province.
The complex is designed to process yellowcake -- uranium in its raw form -- and is located in the city of Ardakan, state television said. Named Shahid Rezainejad, it will produce about 60 tons of yellowcake annually, Press TV and other state media reported. The country also started operations in the Saghand mines, where it will extract uranium from a depth of 350 meters (1,100 feet), according to the reports.
“Western nations want to have a monopoly on science and technology, they didn’t want our nuclear technology to flourish,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in today’s ceremony at the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran in Tehran. “You couldn’t stop us from developing the technology,” he said. “Nobody will be able to put the brakes on Iran’s nuclear progress.”
Today’s announcements do not constitute a technological breakthrough as Iran is already producing uranium at its Gchine mine in the south. The new projects come days after a round of negotiations between Iran and six world powers in Kazakhstan last week, which ended with the two sides still “far apart in substance,” according to Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief.
While Iranian officials say their country’s nuclear program aims to advance energy production and medical research, Israel and the U.S. say Iran may be trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability, and have threatened military strikes to stop it. The U.S. and European Union have imposed sanctions that cut Iran’s oil exports and its access to foreign currencies, and warned of tighter restrictions if there is no breakthrough in talks.
Iran started celebrating a national nuclear day after April 2006, when Ahmadinejad first said his nation had mastered the full nuclear cycle and joined the “nuclear club” of countries with the technology. During his two four-year terms, the Iranian government has sought to turn Iran’s nuclear program into a source of pride for the population and a symbol of independence and resistance in the face of foreign pressure.
In the past seven years, Iran officially launched its first nuclear power plant and has gone from enriching uranium from a 3.5 percent purity level to 20 percent, which it says it needs to fuel a Tehran research reactor that produces medical isotopes. Enriched uranium can be used to fuel a nuclear power reactor, or it can be enriched further to a concentration of 90 percent to build nuclear weapons.