Jam-e-Jam, Daily Newspaper, No. 1329, Dec. 26th, 2004, Page 99
By : Nasser Alaqebandan
Word Count : 1012
A group of reporters recently visited the Uranium Conversion Facility in the central city of Isfahan. The Jaam-e Jam newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, has written a report about the unprecedented visit. Iranian scientists have accomplished the task in this facility in the past couple of years. The International Atomic Energy Agency has installed two surveillance cameras there.
The historical city of Isfahan now takes pride in its scientists who have launched the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF). One week after out visit, Iran agreed in a November 22 deal with the Europeans to stop its programs in this nuclear facility. Now we are waiting for January 10 when Iran and the European Union are supposed to resume talks for trade cooperation. Iranâ€™s chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani said the UCF will restart and Iran will resume its enrichment activities.
Located on a 60-ha land, the UCF is built up on 120,000 square meters. The building has recently gone on-stream. Argentine was first to build the UCF but it withdrew. China also refused to cooperate with Iran and in the end Iranians launched it. A director in UCF says more than 60 buildings were supposed to be built. â€œOur buildings are divided into three sections: processing, nuclear protection and non-nuclear protection.â€
â€œWe have completed the majority of work. In light of conditions, we decided to build the processing buildings first and then prepare the protection sections.â€ â€œYellowcake is undergoing conversion here to produce UF4 and then UF6,â€ he said.
We were then led towards the heart of the project. A high furnace stood near the buildings. Touring 40 reporters at a nuclear facility was an unprecedented work. We wanted to prove to the world that Iran should not be forgotten.
The building was dangerous and we were warned of contamination but the reporters are always bracing for such perils. We have to wear certain clothes and masks. Pipes, boilers, furnaces and tankers were interconnected. Anyone who is unfamiliar with nuclear technology can gain whatever he wants.
UCF was designed to produce four kinds of fuel including 10 tons per annum of metallic uranium with natural enrichment, 11.3 tons per year of UV2 power with natural enrichment, 30 kilograms per annum of metallic uranium with 19.7 percent enrichment, 34 tons per annum of UO2 powder with five percent enrichment and 280 tons per year of UF6 with natural enrichment. The most important product was UF6. All of them can help to production of nuclear fuel and operation of research reactors. The system feeds on yellowcake.
An expert says the totality of stages for producing nuclear fuel and its reprocessing is known as nuclear fuel cycle. â€œThorium and Plutonium are used less than uranium. Uranium oxide is the most usable substance for operating commercial reactors. Uranium is found in the crust of the earth with a concentration of 2 ppm. Uranium is more abundant than other elements like mercury and silver. To be used as fuel, uranium ore should undergo processing and enrichment. After it is used in atomic reactor it undergoes reprocessing for a new use. Isfahanâ€™s UCF produces all uranium compositions expect for concentrates.
Another expert said: â€œWe knew that UO2+FH=UF4 and we had converted 1.5 million tons of yellowcake here. The time was running out last March and we had a lot to do. We were trying our best to produce UF4 and UF6 here and now we are subject to political pressure from the West.â€
Unbelievable, Vienna where the International Atomic Energy Agency sits had installed two surveillance cameras in the main building.
The expert went on to say: â€œWe started the work when the New Year began. Everybody was on leave. We take pride in our Islamic nation. We did not lose even one minute. We were determined to start the work with 37 tons of yellowcake and we finally succeeded. Before suspension, this unit had to be tested to prove to the world that we can. Two days before we suspend work here I declare that we have accomplished the mission.â€
The United States, Britain, France, Russia and China have mastered the nuclear fuel cycle at an industrial level. India has done so at non-industrial level. Canada and France have the biggest uranium conversion facilities and they produce UO2, UO3 and UF6. The next in rank are the United States, Russia and Britain. The United States and Russia are home to the biggest uranium enrichment facilities. They started work in 1945 and 1949 respectively.
The Iranian scientist said: â€œDonâ€™t worry. We will not let the UCF stop work.â€ A security officer said: â€œNowhere in the world allows the reporters freely tour such sensitive sites.â€
â€œThe United States, Russia or France do not allow the reporters visit these facilities from outside or take photographs. We invited you here to make known the nuclear breakthroughs of Iranian scientists,â€ he said.
We had to get ready to depart. The last stage constituted visiting the large tankers of newly produced UF6.
Now UCF requires backing from all Iranians. All Iranians should know that 80 percent of nuclear fuel cycle takes place in Isfahanâ€™s UCF. We are numbering the days for this facility to start work.
Mohammad Qanadi, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization, says China had promised to contribute to operation of 24 workshops. But, he added, China terminated the deal and Iranian scientists have so far launched 21.
Behrouz Samani, an executive at the UCF, says Iranian scientists have built all 15,000 equipment here.
Behrouz Habashizadeh, UCF director, says: â€œChina signed a deal with Iran in 1990 but they carried out 10 percent of the work in eight years. In the end, they stopped working under pressure from big powers.â€
China never imagined that Iranian engineers can carry out the task. In a period of four years, young Iranian scientists worked round the clock in the absence of any foreigner.
Reporters tour Isfahan nuclear facility
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