On Thursday, Steven Aftergood, of Secrecy News project of the Federation of American Scientists, posted two links to PowerPoint presentations that together present about 80 photographs of the Iran's Qatran Heavy Water Facility in Khondab (usually referred to in Western media as "Arak," the city of about 400,000 that lies about 40 miles south east of the facility) and its Uranium Conversion Facility near Isfahan, from open source materials compiled by the CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service.[1]  --  These are two of the facilities that the U.S. military has now targeted for destruction.  --  A recent piece in China Daily, based on agency reports, summarized the history and controversy concerning the facilty near Arak, said that recent intelligence photos suggest the installation is "nearly complete," while also noting that "there is nothing illegal about the plant."[2]  --  An AP story published Thursday (presented below in the version that appears in the Casper (WY) Star Tribune, the newspaper of Dick Cheney's hometown, county seat of Natrona County, where the future vice president and éminence grise of the U.S. national security state starred in Natrona County High School both in football and student politics, and where he dated the Wyoming state champion baton twirler, Lynne Vincent [James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans (Viking, 2004), p. 10]) reports on how the Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility related to the one to the north at Natanz.[3]  --  This facility, too, is in the sights of the Pentagon as a target in an unprovoked act of aggressive and therefore criminal war.  --  Recall that Mr. Justice Jackson said on Nov. 21, 1945 in his opening statement at the Nuremberg trials that "to plan, prepare, initiate, or wage a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements, and assurances, or to conspire or participate in a common plan to do so, is a crime," adding:  "I further suggest that it is the general view that no political, military, economic, or other considerations shall serve as an excuse or justification for such actions; but exercise of the right of legitimate self-defense, that is to say, resistance to an act of aggression, or action to assist a state which has been subjected to aggression, shall not constitute a war of aggression."  --  According to Scott Ritter, speaking in Olympia, WA, on Feb. 18, this attack -- this crime -- has already been approved by George W. Bush for the month of June 2005.  --  It deserves to be mentioned in this context (but never is in U.S. mainstream media accounts) that Iran has been much more open about its nuclear program than has Israel, which has been pursuing a nuclear program since the late 1950s while the U.S. Government studiously turns a blind eye and even today feigns ignorance of it.  --  Also of note, perhaps, is the fact that Wyoming leads the nation in uranium production.  --  In fact, the Wyoming Mining Association reports that it was just a few miles from Dick Cheney's high school that Wyoming's uranium destiny became clear when in the late 1960s and 1970s major uranium deposits were discovered in the Powder River Basin.[4]  --  The United States has long been engaging in uranium enrichment on a major scale; its current facilities are operated by the "United States Enrichment Corporation" (USEC) -- now a private entity -- in western Kentucky (another in southern Ohio is on "cold standby"); both these facilities have been operational since the mid-1950s.[5] ...


By Steven Aftergood

Secrecy News
March 10, 2005

If open sources can easily mislead, as in the Sedan/Sudan case, at least they can be easily corrected. In any case, they remain a uniquely productive resource.

So, for example, much of what is known about Iran's nuclear program, where clandestine human sources are said to be sparse at best, derives from the focused collection of open source material.

Two recent photo collections compiled by the CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service illustrate the point (thanks to J).

The Qatran Heavy Water Facility in Khondab near Arak is featured in this October 2004 report (2.3 MB PowerPoint file):


The Uranium Conversion Facility near Isfahan is profiled in this November 2004 document (8.7 MB PowerPoint file):




China Daily
March 5, 2005


[PHOTO CAPTION: Iran has started building a research reactor that could eventually produce enough plutonium for one bomb per year, ignoring calls to scrap the project, diplomats close to the U.N. said on March 3, 2005. The Arak heavy water production facility in Central Iran, 360 km south west of Tehran, is seen in this October 2004 file photo. [Reuters/File] (NOTE: This is the same photograph that is presented in the 21st slide in the PowerPoint presentation referred to above; there it is identified as the work of Majid Saeedi, many of whose news photographs are posted on the web as the property of Getty Images; in the PowerPoint presentation, the photography is not listed as coming not from Reuters but from the Fars News Agency, which has existed since 1999 and has been characterized both as "private" and "semi-official.")]

New satellite images show a heavy water plant in Iran, intended to supply a research reactor that could eventually produce plutonium for one atomic bomb a year, is nearly complete, a U.S. think-tank said on Friday.

The photos of the plant in Arak, 150 miles south of Tehran, were taken in February by the U.S. commercial satellite firms DigitalGlobe and Space Imaging and provided to Reuters by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a U.S. think-tank.

"Adjacent to the reactor construction site (in Arak) is the heavy water production plant, which is almost completed and is anticipated to supply the necessary heavy water for the heavy water reactor," ISIS said in an analysis of the imagery.

While there is nothing illegal about the plant, the news that it is nearly done will likely deepen U.S. suspicions that Iran wants heavy-water technology to get plutonium for bombs.

On Thursday, Western diplomats close to the U.N. nuclear watchdog said Iran had already laid the foundations for the 40-megawatt heavy-water research reactor at Arak, despite calls by the European Union and the United Nations to scrap the project.

Heavy-water reactors can be used to produce significant amounts of bomb-grade plutonium, which can then be extracted from the spent fuel by a process known as reprocessing.

"No evidence of any reprocessing facilities can be seen in the satellite images," ISIS said in its analysis of the imagery.

David Albright, who heads ISIS and was formerly a U.N. weapons inspector, said he had also seen photographs of what appeared to be steam coming out of the Arak heavy water plant.

"We think they have been testing it," Albright said.

The Arak heavy-water production plant, along with the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, was revealed by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in August 2002, an exile group that described it as part of a secret nuclear weapons program.

Iran, which denies wanting to produce anything but electricity with its atomic facilities, later declared the Natanz and Arak sites to the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Washington sided with the NCRI view, accusing Tehran of pursuing weapons under cover of a civilian atomic program.

Iran has not been ordered by the EU to halt the heavy-water production plant, but ISIS analyst Corey Hinderstein said the plant had no purpose other than to supply the future research reactor -- which Iran has been urged not to build.



By Ali Akbar Dareini

Associated Press
March 10, 2005


NATANZ, Iran -- An Iranian official confirmed Monday a uranium enrichment plant in central Iran is underground as a protection against airstrikes, but insisted that is not a sign the program aims to produce nuclear weapons.

U.S. officials have said building nuclear facilities underground is inconsistent with Iran's contention its atomic program is intended only for the generation of electricity. The Iranians deny Washington's accusation that they are trying to build nuclear weapons.

Ali Akbar Salehi, a nuclear affairs adviser to the foreign minister, said U.S. and Israeli threats forced Iran to take precautions to protect its technology, including the string of centrifuges used to enrich uranium -- a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors that generate electricity but also make material suitable for atomic warheads.

"To protect the safety of equipment against possible danger of aerial attack, a major part of the plant has been constructed underground, especially where thousands of centrifuges need to be located," Salehi told The Associated Press.

It was the first public confirmation by Iran that the Natanz facility is underground.

On Saturday, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hasan Rowhani, confirmed Iran is building a tunnel next to another nuclear facility in Isfahan. He said that the tunnel, under a mountain, will be used to store unspecified equipment and that air attacks would not be able to destroy it.

The central cities of Natanz and Isfahan house the heart of Iran's nuclear program. The conversion facility in Isfahan reprocesses uranium ore concentrate, known as yellowcake, into uranium hexaflouride gas. The gas is then taken to Natanz and fed into the centrifuges for enrichment.

The facility at Natanz is at the foot of a mountain in an otherwise barren desert some 200 miles south of the capital, Tehran. Some of its buildings, which are believed to be administrative offices, are visible from the main road running from Kashan to Natanz.

There are military bases not far from the facility. Travelers who stop on the road close to the facility are approached by security officers in plainclothes and asked to leave.

Iran began its nuclear program in secrecy, and now says it has achieved proficiency in the full range of activities involved in enriching uranium.

Iran's former president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, said Sunday that Iran initially developed the program in secret and bought nuclear materials on the black market because of U.S. sanctions and European restrictions that denied Iran access to advanced civilian nuclear technology.

He said that Iran has been very open about the program since 2002, when secret aspects of its nuclear activities were revealed, and that it is cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

The government argues it is entitled to work on civilian uses of uranium enrichment under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Iran suspended enrichment-related activities last year to create confidence during negotiations over its program and avoid the U.N. Security Council considering sanctions. But it says maintaining the voluntary freeze depends on progress in talks with Britain, Germany and France, which are negotiating on behalf of the European Union.



Wyoming Mining Association
August 1999


Uranium was first discovered in Wyoming in 1949, but the most famous discovery occurred in 1953 when Neil McNeice located the radioactive mineral in the Gas Hills of central Wyoming. Production during the 1950s centered around the Gas Hills and the nearby Shirley Basin.

Production declined in the mid-1960s, but then picked up again in the late '60s and '70s with the discovery of major uranium deposits in the Powder River Basin, including: Christensen Ranch, Smith Ranch, Morton Ranch and Exxon's Highland Mine.

Conventional mine production peaked in 1980, then decreased in the early '80s through the early '90s when many in situ mines (solution injection and recovery) were developed.

At its zenith, Wyoming uranium industry employment hit a record 5,300, and total production peaked at 12 million pounds. The spot market price ranged between $38 and $40 a pound. The price hit a low of $7.50 a pound in 1991, but rebounded to $12 a pound in 1995.

Since the first production, Wyoming mines have produced 193 million pounds of U3O8. The energy contained in one pound of uranium is equivalent to 31 barrels of fuel oil or 10 tons of coal; so the total energy produced from Wyoming uranium is equivalent to 5.9 billion barrels of fuel oil or 1.9 billion tons of Wyoming coal. Indeed, Wyoming leads the nation in uranium and coal production (present uranium production is totally from in situ facilities in the Powder River Basin.)

Production from conventional mine/mill operations in Wyoming ceased in 1992. Where there were nine operating recovery mills in operation in 1980, there is now only one still standing, and it is on standby status.

The mines that supported the mills have been proceeding to final reclamation over the years, and that work is nearing completion. It is projected that by the end of this year, all remediation (the responsibility of the operators) will be completed.

Today's slowly-strengthening uranium market is allowing Wyoming operations to continuously expand production capacity, providing jobs and a safe environment for the future of the state and the uranium industry.



Earth Island Institute


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Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant
Purpose: enrichment of uranium
Location: McCracken County in western Kentucky (about ten miles west of Paducah)
Owner: US Department of Energy
Operator: United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC)
Process: enrichment of uranium hexafluoride by gaseous diffusion
Period of operation: 1954- [lv]
Nominal capacity: 11.3 million SWU[lvi] per year as of 1999[lvii]; now rated by USEC at 8 million SWU
Actual production: 5 million SWU anticipated by USEC in its fiscal year 2002[lviii]

USEC (first as a government-owned corporation and then as a private entity) has leased the uranium enrichment facilities at Paducah and also at Portsmouth (see below) from the U.S. Department of Energy since 1993. Until 2001 Paducah was authorized by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to enrich uranium hexafluoride to only 2.75% uranium 235 by weight.[lix] The Paducah plant shipped the UF6 that it enriched to the K-25 plant at Oak Ridge[lx] until that plant shut down, or to Portsmouth to be enriched to the appropriate level for civilian or military use. Recently USEC upgraded the Paducah plant to enable it to stand alone. March 19, 2001, the NRC authorized Paducah to enrich uranium to 5.5% uranium 235.[lxi] However, according to an informed source, Paducah had not reached that level as of November 5, 2001. Most nuclear power plants use uranium enriched to between 3.5% and 5% uranium 235. Paducah will continue to ship enriched UF6 to Portsmouth for an indefinite period of time, but only for final packaging and shipping.


Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant —- cold standby
Purpose: enrichment of uranium
Location: Pike County in southcentral Ohio (Piketon is the nearest town; Portsmouth is twenty-five miles to the south)
Owner: US Department of Energy
Operator: United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC)
Process: enrichment of uranium hexafluoride by gaseous diffusion
Period of operation: 1956- [lxii]
Nominal capacity: 8.6 million SWU per year[lxiii]

The Portsmouth plant enriched UF6 to as high as 97% uranium 235, until the government stopped producing highly enriched uranium (HEU) in 1991. Afterwards it enriched up to 10% uranium 235.[lxiv] However, USEC blended down 13 tons of HEU UF6, containing about 2 million SWU, at the Portsmouth plant. Blending was completed in 1998.[lxv] USEC stopped enriching uranium at the Portsmouth plant in May 2001.[lxvi] Only the plant’s transfer and shipping stations remain in operation. Former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson announced in October 2000 that the plant would be placed on cold standby for five years for possible restart in the event of a significant disruption in the nation’s supply of enriched uranium. He also pledged that DOE would finance a pilot centrifuge plant at Portsmouth.[lxvii] The Bush administration has funded the first two years of cold standby,[lxviii] but as of early November 2001 funding for the remaining years and for the centrifuge pilot was in question.