Iran opens new uranium production facility: TV

TEHERAN (AFP) - Iran, under global sanctions for its nuclear enrichment programme, on Tuesday launched a new uranium production facility and began operations in two extraction mines, state television said.

The mines in the city of Saghand in central Iran operate 350 metres underground and are within 120 kilometres of the new yellowcake production facility in the city of Ardakan, in Yazd province, the television said.

The report gave few details of the Ardakan facility but said it had an estimated 60 tonnes output of yellowcake, which is an impure state of uranium oxide later used in enrichment processes.

Iran's enrichment activities, which it says are aimed at feeding a peaceful energy programme, are the focus of international concerns, with Western powers and Israel fearing Tehran is developing an atom bomb.

The announcements, on the occasion of Iran's national Atomic Energy Technology day, come shortly after talks between Iran and six world powers on Tehran's nuclear ambitions failed to achieve a breakthrough.

The six - five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany known as the P5+1 - met with Iranian negotiators in the Kazakh city of Almaty on April 5 and 6 in a bid to coax Iran into curbing its programme in exchange for the easing of some sanctions.

Iran enriches uranium to both 3.5 and 20 per cent levels in its Natanz and Fordo enrichment facilities. Uranium purified at high levels can be used in a nuclear weapon.

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