President Mohammad Khatami said today that Iran had mined uranium for use in nuclear power plants and would reprocess the spent fuel itself, but said its nuclear program was for civilian use.
The announcement, in a speech broadcast on state television, was the first time Iran acknowledged possession of uranium ore reserves. "Iran has discovered reserves and extracted uranium. . . . We are determined to use nuclear technology for civilian purposes," Khatami said.
He said the uranium had been extracted in the Savand area, and processing facilities had been set up in the central cities of Isfahan and Kashan.
Iran has invited inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, to verify its nuclear facilities later this month.
In another development, state television quoted Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani as saying Iran, for the first time, had developed the capacity to produce composite solid fuels for its missiles. "This solid fuel could be used for any kind of missile," he said after inaugurating a manufacturing plant.
Iran makes medium-range missiles, anti-tank missiles, air-to-surface missiles and surface-to-surface guided missiles that use composite solid fuel.
The United States has been at odds with Russia over its help in building a nuclear power plant at Iran's southwestern port of Bushehr that Tehran expects to come on line at the end of this year or early in 2004.
Moscow had said that all spent fuel from the plant would be returned to Russia, ensuring that it would not be diverted to a weapons program. But Khatami said today that Iran intended to retain control of the entire whole fuel cycle, itself, from mining and processing the uranium ore to reprocessing the spent fuel.