Jeffrey LewisGchine (Gehine)

Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran (GOV/2005/67) has several paragraphs devoted to Iran’s the Gchine uranium mine and mill, near Bandar Abbas.

ElBaradei provided some background on the Gchine mine in 2004:

In the south of Iran, near Bandar Abbas, Iran has constructed the Gchine uranium mine and its co-located mill. The low but variable grade uranium ore found in near-surface deposits will be open-pit mined and processed at the associated mill. The estimated production design capacity is 21 t of uranium per year. Iran has stated that, as of July 2004, mining operations had started and the mill had been hot tested, during which testing a quantity of about 40 to 50 kg of yellowcake was produced.

5. Iran has explored two other potential uranium production routes. One was the extraction of uranium from phosphoric acid. Using research scale equipment, small quantities of yellowcake were successfully produced at the Tehran Nuclear Research Centre (TNRC) laboratories. Iran has stated that there are no facilities in Iran for separating uranium from phosphoric acid other than the research facilities at TNRC. The second route explored by Iran was the production of yellowcake using percolation leaching. Using this technique, Iran produced an estimated several hundred kilograms of yellowcake using temporary facilities, now dismantled, located at the Gchine mining site.

The rub, as IAEA DD Pierre Goldschmidt explained in June, is “why the work on the very promising Gchine project was suspended by the AEOI from 1994 to 2000 to focus on a much less promising ore deposit at Saghand.”

A couple of diplomats told Paul that the Gchine might have been part of a parallel military program:

Both the State Department official and a European diplomat said that Iran’s military or an affiliated organization may have begun working at the mine in an effort to obtain an independent uranium source. The European diplomat cautioned, however, that “politics” may explain Iran’s selection of the other site.

The most recent report doesn’t shed much light on the situation, beyond noting that the arrangements for Gchine are suspicious, particularly “how a turn-key project for a uranium ore processing plant could have been implemented by a newly founded company, described as having had limited experience in uranium ore processing, in such a relatively short period of time.”

I’ve looked into the history of the mine, but a real research job is going to take more time than I have right now.

Reza Amrollahi, President of AEOI, told Tehran radio in September 1989 that AEOI would open three mines and a mill at Saghand, Bandar Abbas and Bandar-e Langeh (I’ve got a description but not the transcript). Then there are some allegations about Iran soliciting Argentine, then Chinese, help to extract and process uranium.

While the Iranians have been quiet about Gchine—which may be because nothing was going happening—they have not been shy about Saghand, giving presentations to international conferences, tours to journalists and even setting up a webpage .

Comments

  1. Josh Narins (History)

    I really have to wonder about Goldschmidt.

    Look at this paragraph, particularly the last sentence.

    Following Iran’s conversion of approximately 37 tons of uranium ore concentrate(UOC) at the Uranium Conversion Facility(UCF), and its subsequent clean out of the process lines, the IAEA carried out a physical inventory verification(PIV) of the nuclear material (in the form of UF4, UF6, scrap and waste) at UCF between 21 and 25 April 2005. Based on a preliminary assessment, the quantities of material appear to correspond to those declared by Iran. Until analysis of nuclear material samples taken during the PIV is completed, however, it is not possible to finalize these figures.

    Think about the various ways that last sentence could have been written.

    Perhaps “These figures can be finalized after the analyses of the nuclear material samples, expected to be completed by X, 200Y”

    Now please re-read the last quoted sentence again.

    By the way, I’ve often thought that Chomsky’s understanding of the world (and I consider him the foremost critic of US foreign policy in the world, even if his suggested solutions suck), is that he has such a solid understanding of language itself, the medium in which politicians generally operate.

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