Zimbabwe is coming to Iran’s rescue by helping it with one of the main obstacles in its nuclear program: A lack of raw uranium. The Zimbabwean Foreign Minister has confirmed that his country is working on a deal to allow its uranium to be extracted by Iran for its nuclear program.
This partnership was a long time in the making. The African dictatorship denied reports in April 2010 that it had secretly agreed to let Iran mine its uranium deposits in return for a supply of oil, but the denials did not say that a deal wasn’t in the works. The Zimbabwean Foreign Minister’s admission may have been provoked after an intelligence report from a country belonging to the International Atomic Energy Organization was leaked to the press that said the Iranian Foreign Minister had held a secret meeting with top officials in Zimbabwe about a uranium deal. It also said that Iran was secretly looking at up to a dozen countries to potentially retrieve the metal from.
In January 2009, it was reported that Iran could run out of its raw uranium stockpile within months. The IAEA said that 70 percent of the uranium had been converted into uranium hexafluoride gas, the step before insertion into the centrifuges for enrichment. According to nuclear expert David Albright, the Iranians do have enough uranium gas for up to 35 nuclear weapons and today has enough enriched uranium for least two nuclear bombs, but much more is needed to sustain the Isfahan conversion site, the Arak heavy water plant and the Bushehr nuclear reactor.
About 200 tons of uranium is needed to operate a single 1,000 megawatt power station every single year and Iran has declared its intention to build 20 of them. The Iranians have increased production at its mine near Bandar Abbas but it is only processing about 21 tons per year and the site at Ardakan can only provide 50 more tons per year. The Bandar Abbas site, which is off-limits to inspectors, can supply enough uranium for two nukes per year but its deposits are said to be of poor quality and are not nearly large enough to accommodate an energy program.
Iran must acquire uranium abroad in order to keep its nuclear program going and Zimbabwe is able and willing to help. An Israeli intelligence report in May 2009 said that Iran was going to Bolivia and Venezuela for help. In September 2009, Venezuela admitted that it is allowing Iran to survey its deposits and Chavez has talked about creating a “nuclear village” in his country with Iran. It has been estimated that Venezuela is home to 50,000 tons of uranium, some of which may be of high quality.
Burma and North Korea are two other candidates for Iran. The North Koreans have had no qualms about providing Iran with WMD technology and it’s been reported that 45 tons of North Korean uranium went from Syria to Iran after the Israelis bombed the Syrian nuclear reactor in September 2007. Burma also is working on a nuclear weapons program and has uranium deposits. One Burmese defector claims that Burma supplied Iran with a sample of its uranium in February 2004.
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