Iran Opens Uranium Mines, Yellow Cake Plant on National Nuclear Day

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Iran said on Tuesday it had started production at two uranium mines and a yellow cake plant, declaring that Western opposition would not slow its nuclear program days after talks between Tehran and world powers failed to reach an accord.

The country opened the Saghand 1 and 2 uranium mines in the central city of Yazd, which will extract uranium from a depth of 350 meters, and the Shahid Rezaeinejad yellow cake plant at Ardakan to mark Iran's National Nuclear Technology Day, state news agency IRNA said.

The Ardakan plant is capable of producing 60 tonnes of yellow cake - raw uranium - annually, IRNA said.

The United States and some allies suspect Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability but Iran says its atomic program, including its enrichment of uranium, is for purely peaceful purposes. Nuclear talks between Iran and world powers held in Kazakhstan last week failed to reach a breakthrough.

"They (world powers) tried their utmost to prevent Iran from going nuclear, but Iran has gone nuclear," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech at Iran's Atomic Energy Organization on Tuesday.

"This nuclear technology and power and science has been institutionalized ... All the stages are in our control and every day that we go forward a new horizon opens up before the Iranian nation."

The U.S. Navy said on Monday it will deploy for the first time a laser weapon on one of its ships that could be capable of shooting down drones and disabling vessels.

"The future is here," said Peter Morrison at the Office of Naval Research's Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation Program.

The weapon is being billed as a step toward transforming warfare. Since it runs on electricity, it can fire as long as there is power at a cost of less than $1 dollar per shot.

"Compare that to the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to fire a missile, and you can begin to see the merits of this capability," Chief of Naval Research Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, said in a statement.

The prototype, which one official said cost between $31 million and $32 million to make, will be installed aboard the USS Ponce, which is being used as a floating base in the Middle East, sometime in fiscal year 2014, which begins in October.

A Navy video showing the laser shooting down a drone can be seen below.

Klunder said the Navy expects that someday incoming missiles will not be able to "simply outmaneuver" a highly accurate laser beam traveling at the speed of light.

A new report from the Congressional Research Service praises the laser technology but also notes drawbacks, including the potential it could accidentally hit satellites or aircraft. Weather also affects lasers.

"Lasers might not work well, or at all, in rain or fog, preventing lasers from being an all-weather solution," it said in its report issued on March 14.

A technician checks valves at the uranium conversian facility in Isfahan, 450 km south of Tehran, February 3, 2007.Credit: Reuters

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