Saturday, February 24, 2007

Iran's Nuclear Sites
The following two topics are important for May 2007 Preliminary Examination.

Latin America turns left
· Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
· Bolivia- Evo Morales
· Nestor Kirchner - Argentina
· Luis Inacio Lula da Silva - Brazil
· Nicaragua-- Daniel Ortega
· Rafael Correa - Ecuador.

Iran’s Nuclear Sites

BUSHEHR - Nuclear power station
The Bushehr nuclear power station (image: DigitalGlobe)
Iran's nuclear programme began in 1974 with plans to build a nuclear power station at Bushehr with German assistance.
The project was abandoned because of the Islamic revolution five years later, but revived in 1992 when Tehran signed an agreement with Russia to resume work at the site.
There are two pressurised water reactors at the site - one reportedly near completion.

ISFAHAN - Uranium conversion plant
Isfahan uranium conversion plant
Iran is building a plant here to convert uranium ore into three forms:
· Hexafluoride gas - used in gas centrifuges
· Uranium oxide - used to fuel reactors, albeit not the type Iran is constructing
· Metal - often used in the cores of nuclear bombs. The IAEA is concerned about the metal's use, as Iran's reactors do not require it as fuel.

NATANZ - Uranium enrichment plant

Iran suspended work on an uranium enrichment plant at Natanz in 2003 - but has recently reopened the facility.
In 2003, a leaked International Atomic Energy Agency report said that weapons-grade uranium had been found in samples taken from the site, although Iran blamed contaminated imported equipment, and an independent report later confirmed this.
According to some estimates, when complete, Natanz could house some 50,000 advanced gas centrifuges, which would produce enough weapons-grade uranium to produce more than 20 weapons per year.
Other estimates suggest the plant will have a total of 5,000 centrifuges when initial stages of the project are completed. With that number, Iran would be able to produce sufficient enriched uranium to make a small number of nuclear weapons each year.

ARAK - Heavy water plant
The Arak plant in 2002 (image: DigitalGlobe)
The apparent existence of a heavy water facility near the town of Arak first emerged with the publication of satellite images by the US-based Institute for Science and International Security in December 2002.
Heavy water is used to moderate the nuclear fission chain reaction either in a certain type of reactor - albeit not the type that Iran is currently building - or produce plutonium for use in a nuclear bomb.

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