Iran suddenly discovers "unexpected" uranium reserves

If there’s one thing better than a wonderful surprise gift, it’s the one that arrives at just the perfect time when you need it the most. That must be the feeling in Tehran this month because they’ve not only sealed a sweetheart deal with the United States regarding their nuclear program, but their glide path may have just gotten considerably smoother. One of the baseline assumptions of John Kerry’s deal – and an assumption accepted by pretty much the entire world – was that Iran was near the end of their supplies of usable quality uranium. To get more they would soon need to begin dealing with other countries for it and we could quickly discover any such transactions.. at least in theory. But now that may not be such a big deal to the Supreme Leader. Surprise! They’ve discovered some unexpected uranium reserves of their own which they should be able to start mining. (Reuters)

Iran has discovered an unexpectedly high reserve of uranium and will soon begin extracting the radioactive element at a new mine, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation said on Saturday.

The comments cast doubt on previous assessments from some Western analysts who said the country had a low supply and would sooner or later would need to import uranium, the raw material needed for its nuclear program.

Any indication Iran could become more self-sufficient will be closely watched by world powers, which reached a landmark deal with Tehran in July over its program. They had feared the nuclear activities were aimed at acquiring the capability to produce atomic weapons – something denied by Tehran.

Iran has been engaged in some “aerial prospecting” to locate mineral resources. (You can read a brief overview of how that works here, but basically you can scan for radiation signatures from the air, even in heavily wooded areas. Deserts should be even easier.) This is really some amazingly fortunate timing for them, isn’t it? I mean, what are the odds? Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, is quoted as saying that up until now his projections for mining prospects “were not too optimistic” but now they are “confident about our reserves.”

Speaking of great timing, Iran has also just announced in the most reasonable of fashions that they will be allowing IAEA inspectors to be present for the collection of samples at the heavily guarded Parchin military site.

United Nations inspectors will be present with Iranian technicians as they take samples from a key military site, two Western diplomats said, undercutting an objection by U.S. Republicans to the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

The diplomats were familiar with details of a confidential arrangement between Iran and the U.N. nuclear watchdog for inspections at the Parchin site, where some countries suspect nuclear weapons-related tests may have taken place.

Doing this allows Iran to at least attempt to defuse some of the criticism of the deal since they had previously stonewalled absolutely everyone in terms of access to the site. But continuing with our theme of great timing, allow me to be a tad bit skeptical when I note how wonderful it is that they’ve made this announcement now after they had all the time they wanted to scrub the place clean. Thanks, guys.

Returning for a moment to the uranium reserves question, it shouldn’t be all that shocking that some rich reserves are left. If you look at a map of the most dense known reserves of uranium on the planet, you find them in southern Russia and Kazakhstan, spreading through the rest of the ‘stans which border on… (Ding Ding Ding!) Iran. None of them, however, come close to the density of uranium found beneath one equatorial African site which, in the distant past, was so tightly packed with the fuel that it created a naturally occurring nuclear reactor.

Ah, those Iranians. They just seem to have the luck of the Irish these days.