‘Iran out of yellow cake uranium, race to prevent supplies’

January 24th, 2009 - 6:05 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 24 (IANS) Iran is running short of yellow cake uranium, triggering an international race to prevent it from importing the material needed to make nuclear weapons, according to a news report here Saturday.The Times quoted diplomatic sources as saying Iran’s stock of yellow cake uranium, produced from uranium ore, could be exhausted within months.

Six countries - Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany and the US - were reported to have started intensive diplomatic efforts to dissuade major uranium producers from selling to Iran.

The paper said the British foreign office sent out confidential requests in December last year asking its diplomats in uranium producers Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Brazil to lobby governments not to sell yellow cake and other uranium products to Iran.

Iran’s current stock of yellow cake dates back to the 1970s when it was acquired from South Africa under a civil nuclear power programme.

The Times quoted authoritative sources as saying while efforts to choke off supplies were unlikely to cripple any effort to develop a bomb, they would blunt Iran’s ambitions and help to contain the threat.

Iran also has two small uranium mines but they are costly to run, yield only small quantities of ore and are suffering from problems with purity.

The paper said the shortage raises questions about Iran’s claims to be pursuing a purely peaceful civil nuclear energy programme as such a programme would need far larger quantities of yellow cake than it can produce from its own small mines.

In 2005, Iran tried to smuggle uranium by ship from Congo to Bandar Abbas, but this was foiled by Tanzanian customs officials.

Peter Rickwood, an IAEA official, said: “Nobody is quite sure how much of that stuff is being exported. There have been persistent rumours about uranium coming out of the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and going to North Korea or Iran. Yes, we are concerned about that.”

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