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Iran Dismisses Report It Faces Raw Uranium Shortage

Iran enriches uranium at the Natanz site near the city of Isfahan.

Iran enriches uranium at the Natanz site near the city of Isfahan.

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran has dismissed a British newspaper report that it was running short of raw uranium for a nuclear program the West fears has military aims.

"The Times" said last month Western powers believed Iran was facing a shortfall of raw uranium and were urging producer states not to sell it to Tehran.

"Such news has been raised by the media with no scientific basis," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi told a news conference when asked about the report. "The news has been the product of a few analyses and guesswork and articles."

Iran says its nuclear work is aimed at generating electricity so that the world's fourth-largest crude producer can export more of its oil and natural gas, rejecting Western accusations the program is a cover for making bombs.

The enriched uranium required for use in nuclear reactors or weapons is produced in centrifuges that spin uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6) at high speeds. The UF6 is derived in a chemical reaction from "yellow cake," a concentrate obtained from mined uranium ore.

In its January 24 report, "The Times" quoted sources as saying Iran had nearly exhausted its stock of yellow cake, of which it had acquired several thousand tons from South Africa in the mid-1970s.

The British newspaper said that late last year Britain's Foreign Office ordered its diplomats in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Brazil -- all major uranium producers -- to lobby their governments on the issue.

Iran has a uranium ore-processing plant at Isfahan, some 400 kilometers south of Tehran, which has been under regular inspection by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.