Current Issues: Operating Uranium Conversion/Enrichment and Nuclear Fuel Plants - Asia
(last updated 7 Sep 2022)
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> See also directory of World Nuclear Fuel Facilities
> See also:
Uranium Enrichment and Fuel Fabrication: New Project Issues (China) · Decommissioning Issues (China)
Yibin nuclear fuel plant to double capacity to 800 t/a: Recently, the Proposal for Nuclear Fuel Element Production Line Expansion Project of China Jianzhong Nuclear Fuel Co., Ltd. (CJNF) has been official approved by the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense agreeing on the initiation of the project. The implementation of the project will add 400 tons of uranium per year to the production capacity to meet future needs of the nuclear power development for fuel elements in China.
(CNNC July 19, 2010)
China's Yibin nuclear fuel fabrication facility has reached an annual output of 400 tonnes per year, according to the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).
(WNN Oct. 30, 2008)
China produces first enriched uranium with own centrifuge technology
China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has announced that it has finally been able to successfully produce enriched uranium for industrial purposes using domestically made technology.
The first batch of the independently produced fuel, made in a facility in Lanzhou, Gansu Province, on Friday (June 21), can be used in nuclear power stations nationwide after further processing.
(Global Times June 25, 2013)
China deploys domestically produced uranium enrichment centrifuge
China today announced the successful installation of a domestically produced uranium enrichment centrifuge for industrial use.
The centrifuge was built in a uranium enrichment plant in northwest China's city of Lanzhou, a statement from the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), the country's premier nuclear body, said.
(PTI Feb. 22, 2013)
First stage of Lanzhou centrifuge enrichment plant completed early
The third line of a centrifuge enrichment plant in China is finished, two years ahead of the date stipulated in the 1992 contract between Chinese and Russian nuclear industry, according to the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy. The new plant is located about 25 km north of Lanzhou, in Gansu Province, and has a capacity of 500,000 SWU per year. The first and second stages of the plant, located in Hanjun, in the same province, were put into operation in March 1998 and April 2000 respectively. Furthermore, another 500,000 SWU per year is to be added subsequently at Lanzhou.
(Platts Nov. 12, 2001; Nuclear Fuel May 17, 1999)
China launches new uranium enrichment centrifuges at Hanzhong
China has completed a "large-scale demonstration project for a new generation of uranium enrichment centrifuges", China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced yesterday. The new centrifuges have now been put into production at the Hanzhun fuel facility in Shaanxi province.
The project was independently researched and developed by CNNC and has its own independent intellectual property rights, the company said.
(WNN Mar. 21, 2018)
Russia delivers first centrifuges for fourth stage of Hanzhong centrifuge enrichment plant
Russia's Atomenergoprom has delivered the first centrifuges for the fourth construction stage of the Hanzhong enrichment plant. China committed itself to use the enriched uranium only for its own purposes.
(RIA Novosti May 4, 2009)
> See also:
Uranium Enrichment and Fuel Fabrication: New Project Issues (India) · Decommissioning Issues (India)
> Aerial View: Google Maps
Expansion of India's military gas centrifuge uranium enrichment facility operational in 2015 - IHS
India is expanding a covert uranium enrichment plant that could potentially support the development of thermonuclear weapons, a defence research group said on Friday (June 20), raising the stakes in an arms race with China and Pakistan.
The revelation highlights a lack of nuclear safeguards on India under new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while sanctions-bound Iran faces minute scrutiny in talks with world powers over its own nuclear programme.
New units at the Indian Rare Metals Plant would increase India's ability to produce weapons-grade uranium to twice the amount needed for its planned nuclear-powered submarine fleet, IHS Jane's said.
The facility, located near Mysore in southern India, could be operational by mid-2015, the research group said, basing its findings on analysis of satellite imagery and public statements by Indian officials.
(Reuters June 20, 2014)
India apparently finishes construction of military gas centrifuge uranium enrichment facility
India has expanded a secretive site that could be used to enrich more uranium for nuclear weapons, a US think tank said Wednesday (Dec. 4), citing satellite imagery.
The Institute for Science and International Security , a private group opposed to nuclear proliferation, said that India appeared to be finishing a second gas centrifuge facility at its Rare Materials Plant near the southern city of Mysore.
"This new facility could significantly increase India's ability to produce highly enriched uranium for military purposes, including more powerful nuclear weapons," the institute said in a report that analyzed an image taken in April.
The institute said that India started building a second centrifuge plant near Mysore in 2010, but it was unclear whether it was a replacement for the first facility at the site or a supplement.
If it is a new facility, "India could have more than doubled its enrichment capacity, if the original building continues to function as an enrichment plant," it said.
Indian officials have reportedly said that highly enriched uranium from Mysore would fuel its new nuclear-powered submarines. India's nuclear weapons program has traditionally been based on plutonium, not uranium. (The Frontier Post Dec. 4, 2013)
> Download report: Construction Finishing of Likely New Indian Centrifuge Facility at Rare Materials Plant, December 4, 2013 (1.5MB PDF - ISIS)
India expands military gas centrifuge uranium enrichment facility
The Rare Materials Plant (RMP), India's lone uranium enrichment plant, located at Rattehalli on the outskirts of Mysore, is undergoing massive capacity-building as part of India's gas centrifuge enrichment programme.
A new gas centrifuge plant is being built at the site to enhance the output of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU), a fuel used in naval reactors and thermo-nuclear weapons, at least by three times the current production levels in next couple of years.
Sources in the RMP said the new centrifuge plant was coming up on an area of 120 acres and was nearing completion. By 2016, India looks to produce at least 30,000 separative work units (SWU) per year, a common measure of the output of a uranium enrichment plant, as India is going aggressively with its nuclear programme and plans to install more nuclear reactors in near future.
(Deccan Chronicle Sep. 3, 2012)
India appears to expand its military gas centrifuge uranium enrichment facility
Google Earth recently posted satellite imagery from GeoEye taken on March 3, 2010 of the Rare Materials Plant (RMP) in India. This is the site of India's military gas centrifuge uranium enrichment program. In the new imagery, initial excavation and construction of a large building or buildings can be seen. While the construction is in its early stages in this image, the size of the building or buildings to be constructed indicates that these will be large industrial buildings. A DigitalGlobe satellite image from 2005 shows the same area as undeveloped with several adjacent ponds.
Based on procurement data and public advertisements for bidding requests, Paul Brannan of Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) concluded in 2006 that India was on the verge of adding at least 3,000 centrifuges to the RMP1. If the construction seen in the March 3, 2010 imagery is for a new gas centrifuge hall, India’s uranium enrichment capacity at RMP will be greatly expanded.
Since the 1970s, India has pursued gas centrifuges to enrich uranium. The history and current status of India’s gas centrifuge program has been a long-held state secret. ISIS has been producing reports that trace the history of India’s centrifuge enrichment program and assess its current and projected enrichment capacity based on open sources, information from interviews with Indian and other government officials, and publicly available procurement data.
The Indian Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) commissioned India's main enrichment plant, codenamed the Rare Materials Project (RMP), around 1990. In addition to a gas centrifuge facility, this site, located about 19 kilometers from Mysore, may also contain a uranium hexafluoride production facility. As per ISIS, by 1997, after several years of difficulty, India seems to have achieved a technical breakthrough at RMP. Although India has experienced difficulties in building centrifuges, it now appears to be competent at constructing centrifuges comparable to those common in Europe in the 1970s. ISIS concluded in 2007 that, India is currently operating between 2,000 and 3,000 centrifuges at the RMP. The DAE in 2007 was attempting to expand the number of centrifuges at RMP by 3,000, increasing RMP's capacity by at least 15,000 separative work units (SWU) per year, a common measure of the output of a uranium enrichment plant and more than double its current output.
The Indian government designated its gas centrifuge enrichment facilities, such as RMP, as military sites under the framework of US-India nuclear cooperation. Thus, India is unlikely to use these facilities to create fuel for the Tarapur boiling water reactors, which will be designated as civilian facilities. India is currently importing sufficient amounts of low enriched uranium (LEU) to fuel the Tarapur reactors. These reactors could have otherwise absorbed the RMP's capacity.
As a result of its recently acquired ability to import LEU, India can devote the enrichment capacity of RMP to highly enriched uranium (HEU) for military applications. As per ISIS in 2007, India would most likely use the HEU for fuel in submarine reactors and in thermonuclear weapons. The production of thermonuclear weapons may lead India to conduct additional underground nuclear tests as it seeks to make more deliverable, reliable, and efficient weapons.
(Frontier India June 2, 2010)
India develops fourth generation uranium enrichment gas centrifuges
As part of India's strategic programme, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) has developed fourth generation uranium enrichment gas centrifuges with an output of more than 10 times the earlier design, a top BARC official has said.
"An experimental cascade of the fourth generation design is in operation at BARC and will soon be ready for induction at the Rare Materials Plant (RMP) in Ratnahalli near Mysore," BARC director Sreekumar Banerjee said.
"The Third generation design with 5 times more output than earlier designs are presently being inducted at RMP," he said.
(Business Standard Oct. 31, 2008 )
Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC)
Blast in Hyderabad Nuclear Fuel Complex
On Nov. 17, 2002, a blast occurred in the chemical plant used for uranium purification. The top lid of the process plant hit the asbestos sheet roof, which fell off. Seven persons were working in the plant at the time, but no one was injured. Uranium-bearing liquid contained in the plant spilled onto the ground and collected in a pit. It was later taken back into the process plant.
After the blast, the Health Physics Unit of the NFC monitored the area and declared there was no airborne activity and people were allowed to resume their work in the other plants at the NFC. (Rediff Nov. 18, 2002)
On April 22, 2003, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) permitted the resumption of operation of the wet section of Natural Uranium Oxide Fuel Plant (NUOFP) of the Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) in Hyderabad. The Board had suspended its operation on November 20, 2003, pending inquiry into the reasons of a chemical explosion.
A specialist investigation committee of the AERB confirmed that the explosion was due to what is known as "Red Oil Reaction" — uncontrolled chemical reaction involving hot organic liquid and aqueous nitrate solution. The committee observed that the necessary conditions such as presence of nitrate, organic liquids and temperature for causing the reaction existed in the evaporator at the wet section of the plant at the time of the incident. The NFC management has now modified the process to exclude the evaporation step. (The Hindu, April 23, 2003)
> See also:
Uranium Enrichment and Fuel Fabrication: New Project Issues (Iran) · Decommissioning Issues (Iran)
Iran has started production of uranium metal
The United Nations' atomic watchdog agency said Wednesday its inspectors have confirmed that Iran has begun the production of uranium metal -- another violation of the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with world powers.
International Atomic Energy Agency head Rafael Grossi told member nations that his inspectors had confirmed Feb. 8 that a small amount of uranium metal, 3.6 grams, had been produced at Iran's Isfahan plant, the Vienna-based organization said.
Uranium metal can also be used for a nuclear bomb and research on its production is specifically prohibited under the nuclear deal -- the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action -- that Tehran signed with Germany, France, Britain, China, Russia and the United States in 2015.
When Iran announced its plans in January to produce uranium metal, the German, French and British foreign ministries issued a joint statement saying they were "deeply concerned."
"Iran has no credible civilian use for uranium metal," the nations said, urging Iran to halt the activity. "The production of uranium metal has potentially grave military implications."
(AP Feb. 10, 2021)
Iran announces tenfold increase in enriched uranium production in breach of nuclear deal
Iran has announced a tenfold increase in enriched uranium production as Tehran backs away from its nuclear deal with the west.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's atomic energy organisation, said enriched uranium production was now at 5kg per day, up from 450g two months ago.
The production increases were made possible by the introduction of two new advanced centrifuges, one of which is undergoing testing. Salehi said Iran was now operating 60 IR-6 advanced centrifuges, a violation of the deal.
(The Guardian Nov. 4, 2019)
Iran enriches uranium with advanced centrifuges not permitted by nuclear deal
Iran has committed another breach of its nuclear deal with major powers by enriching uranium with advanced centrifuges, a report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog policing that deal said on Thursday (Sep. 26), further fraying the landmark accord.
(Reuters Sep. 26, 2019)
Iran enriches uranium beyond nuclear deal assay limit
Iran has passed the 3.67% uranium enrichment cap set by its landmark 2015 nuclear deal and may enrich at even higher levels, the spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Behrouz Kamalvandi, said on Monday (July 8) according to the IRIB news agency.
(Reuters July 8, 2019)
Iran amasses more low-enriched uranium than allowed by nuclear deal
Iran announced on Monday (July 1) it had amassed more low-enriched uranium than permitted under its 2015 deal with major powers, its first major step in violation of the deal since the United States pulled out of it more than a year ago.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors Iran's nuclear program under the deal, confirmed in Vienna that Tehran had breached the limit.
(Reuters July 1, 2019)
Iran quadruples production of enriched uranium
Iran has quadrupled its production of enriched uranium amid tensions with the U.S. over Tehran's unraveling nuclear accord, two semi-official news agencies reported Monday (May 20), an announcement that came just after President Donald Trump and Iran's foreign minister traded threats and taunts.
While the reports said the production is of uranium enriched only to the 3.67% limit set by the 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran reached with world powers, it means that Iran soon will go beyond the stockpile limitations established by the accord.
(AP May 20, 2019)
Iran, world powers reach tentative agreement on Tehran's nuclear program
Iran and world powers reached a framework agreement on Thursday (April 2) on curbing Iran's nuclear program for at least a decade, a step towards a final pact that could end 12 years of brinkmanship, threats and confrontation.
The tentative agreement, after eight days of marathon talks in Switzerland, clears the way for negotiations on a settlement aimed at allaying Western fears that Iran was seeking to build an atomic bomb and in return lift economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
The framework is contingent on reaching an agreement by June 30. All sanctions on Iran remain in place until a final deal.
Under the outline deal, Iran would shut more than two-thirds of its installed centrifuges capable of producing uranium that could be used to build a bomb, dismantle a reactor that could produce plutonium, and accept intrusive verification.
Iran agreed to significantly reduce the number of installed uranium enrichment centrifuges it has to 6,104 from 19,000 and will only operate 5,060 for 10 years under the future agreement with the six powers, according to a U.S. fact sheet. Iran will only use first generation centrifuges during that time, it said.
One of the most sensitive issues during the negotiations, Iran's research and development work, will also be limited.
"Iran has agreed to not conduct research and development associated with uranium enrichment at Fordow for 15 years," the U.S. fact sheet said. It also noted that Iran will remove the 1,000 more advanced second-generation centrifuges currently installed at Natanz and place them in International Atomic Energy Agency-monitored storage for 10 years.
(Reuters Apr. 3, 2015)
> Download: Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding
the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program , April 2, 2015 (98kB PDF - White House)
Iran has 18,000 centrifuges, including 1,000 new more efficient ones, ex nuclear chief says
Iran has installed 18,000 uranium-enrichment centrifuges, the country's outgoing nuclear chief was quoted as saying by Iranian media on Saturday (Aug. 17).
Iran has 17,000 older "first-generation" IR-1 centrifuges, of which 10,000 are operating and 7,000 are ready to start operations, the ISNA news agency quoted Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, outgoing head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), as saying.
A May report from the U.N. nuclear watchdog indicated that Iran had by then installed roughly 16,600 IR-1 machines in two separate facilities.
Abbasi-Davani also said there were 1,000 new, more advanced centrifuges ready to start operations, in a reference to IR-2m centrifuges, which once operational would allow Iran to enrich uranium several times faster than the IR-1 machine.
The IAEA in its last report in May said Iran had installed a total of 689 such centrifuges and empty centrifuge casings.
(Reuters Aug. 17, 2013)
Report: Iran seeking to smuggle raw uranium from Kazakhstan
> View here
IAEA Board requests Director General to refer Iran to Security Council
On Feb. 4, 2006, the IAEA Board of Governors passed a resolution requesting the Director General to report to the UN Security Council all IAEA reports and resolutions, as adopted, relating to the implementation of safeguards in Iran.
> Download Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran,
Resolution adopted on 4 February 2006 (PDF)
IAEA resolution demands Iran suspend uranium enrichment
A 35-nation meeting of the U.N. atomic watchdog agency on Sep. 18, 2004, demanded that Iran suspend all aspects of uranium enrichment, setting an indirect November, 2004, deadline for Tehran to heed its conditions.
A resolution approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors said it "considers it necessary" that Iran freeze all uranium enrichment and related programs.
It also said it "strongly urges" Iran to meet all demands by the agency in its investigation of the country's nearly two decades of clandestine nuclear activity, including unrestricted access to sites, information and personnel that can shed light on still unanswered questions on whether Tehran was interested in the atom for nuclear weapons.
(AP Sep. 18, 2004)
> Download Resolution GOV/2004/79 (Sep. 18, 2004) (PDF)
Iran signs accord allowing unannounced inspections of nuclear facilities
On December 18, 2003, Iran signed a key accord opening its nuclear facilities to unfettered and unannounced inspections. The agreement, tacked on to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, requires Iran to submit to intrusive and surprise U.N. inspections of its nuclear complexes and research facilities.
(AP Dec. 18, 2003)
Iran used Urenco centrifuge design
Iran has acknowledged to the U.N. its uranium enrichment centrifuge program is based on a European firm's designs that appear identical to ones used in Pakistan's quest for an atom bomb, diplomats say.
Tehran, accused by Washington of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, told the U.N. nuclear agency it got the blueprints from a "middleman" whose identity the agency had not determined, a Western diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
It was unclear where the "middleman" got the drawings. The U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said in a report Iran told the IAEA it got centrifuge drawings "from a foreign intermediary around 1987."
Several diplomats familiar with the IAEA said the blueprints were of a machine by the Dutch enrichment unit of the British-Dutch-German consortium Urenco.
(Reuters Nov. 27, 2003)
IAEA Board adopts resolution on Iran
Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran,
Resolution adopted by the Board on 26 November 2003, GOV/2003/81 (PDF)
Report by the Director General to the Board, 10 November 2003, GOV/2003/75 (PDF)
On Oct. 21, 2003, Iran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment and give inspectors unrestricted access to its nuclear facilities as demanded by the IAEA, a step that could ease the standoff over fears Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons.
(AP Oct. 21, 2003)
Aerial view: Google Maps
Isfahan conversion plant reopened:
Iran has reopened a nuclear plant idle for nine years, its atomic energy agency (AEOI) said on Wednesday (June 27), as Tehran prepares to increase uranium enrichment capacity if a nuclear deal with world powers falls apart after the U.S. withdrawal.
The AEOI said on Wednesday that in response to Khamenei's order and Trump's renunciation of the deal, a plant for the production of UF6, the feedstock for centrifuge machines that enrich uranium, had been relaunched and a barrel of yellow cake has been delivered there.
(Reuters June 27, 2018)
Iran starts UO2 production line at Isfahan conversion plant:
In agreement with G5+1, Iran launched a production line of natural and enriched UO2 (uranium dioxide) at the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) of Isfahan on Saturday (Aug. 23).
The Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) at Isfahan contains process lines to convert yellowcake into uranium oxide and uranium hexafluoride. It began operations in June 2006.
(IRNA Aug. 23, 2014)
On Aug. 8, 2005, Iran resumed uranium conversion at its facility near Isfahan under IAEA supervision, a move EU officials have warned will probably see its nuclear case sent to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.
Iran had agreed to suspend all nuclear fuel work in November 2004 as part of a deal with the European Union while both sides explored a long-term arrangement for Iran's nuclear programme. But, on Aug. 6, 2005, Iran rejected an EU proposal offering it economic and political incentives to halt nuclear fuel work for good.
(Reuters Aug. 8, 2005)
Iran has inaugurated a conversion plant for uranium in the central city of Isfahan, Iranian nuclear officials said on March 27, 2004. The facility began operation "some time ago," a senior official at the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said on condition of anonymity.
(AP March 27, 2004)
Some information on the processes and capacities of the project was given by Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Vice President for Nuclear Fuel Production M. Ghannadi-Maragheh at the WNA Annual Symposium 3-5 September 2003 in London:
- Conversion of 300 t/a of U3O8 to 480 t/a AUC (ammonium uranyl carbonate).
- Conversion of 480 t/a AUC via UO2 to 282 t/a UF4. About 95% of the UF4 will be used to produce UF6 and 5% to produce uranium ingot.
- Conversion of 265 t/a of UF4 to 285 t/a UF6.
- Conversion of about 250t of depleted UF6 to 223 t/a depleted UF4 to "simplify waste management".
- Production of F2 by electrolyzing of HF and KHF2.
- Production of 11.3 t/a natural, and 34 t/a enriched UO2 powder.
A Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) is close to inauguration at Isfahan in central Iran, according to Gholamreza Aqazadeh, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation. (Reuters Feb. 12, 2003)
Aerial view: Google Maps
Iran escalates enrichment with adaptable machines at Fordow, IAEA reports
Iran has escalated its uranium enrichment further with the use of advanced machines at its underground Fordow plant in a setup that can more easily change between enrichment levels, the U.N. atomic watchdog said in a report on Saturday (July 9) seen by Reuters.
(Reuters July 9, 2022)
Iran further escalating uranium enrichment at Fordow
Iran is escalating its uranium enrichment further by preparing to use advanced IR-6 centrifuges at its underground Fordow site that can more easily switch between enrichment levels, a United Nations nuclear watchdog report seen by Reuters on Monday (June 20) showed.
(Reuters June 20, 2022)
Iran starts use of advanced centrifuges at Fordow during talks to save deal
Iran has started producing enriched uranium with more efficient advanced centrifuges at its Fordow plant dug into a mountain, the U.N. atomic watchdog said on Wednesday (Dec. 1), further eroding the 2015 Iran nuclear deal during talks with the West on saving it.
Indirect talks between Iran and the United States on bringing both fully back into the battered deal resumed this week after a five-month break prompted by the election of hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi.
Western negotiators fear Iran is creating facts on the ground to gain leverage in the talks.
On the third day of this round of talks, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had started the process of enriching uranium to up to 20% purity with one cascade, or cluster, of 166 advanced IR-6 machines at Fordow. Those machines are far more efficient than the first-generation IR-1.
(Reuters Dec. 1, 2021)
Iran says it has produced 210 kg of uranium enriched to 20%, meaning that 90% of separative work required for two nuclear bombs already spent
Iran's atomic agency said Friday (Nov. 5) that its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium has reached over 210 kilograms (463 pounds), the latest defiant move ahead of upcoming nuclear talks with the West.
(AP Nov. 5, 2021)
[Note: approx. 8046 SWU were spent to obtain those 210 kg of uranium enriched to 20%. Further enrichment of this amount to weapons grade requires just another 852 SWU, yielding 46 kg of uranium enriched to 90% - so approx. 90% of the separative work required to obtain weapons-grade material for two nuclear bombs has already been spent!]
Iran has produced 120 kg of uranium enriched to 20%, meaning that more than 90% of separative work required for first nuclear bomb already spent
Tehran has crossed a new threshold by increasing its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium to more than 120 kg, Mohammad Eslami, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, announced on Saturday evening (October 9th).
(Le Monde Oct. 10, 2021)
[Note: The assay of 20% U-235 appears to be way below the 90% required for a nuclear weapon, but in terms of separative work required, it actually isn't: approx. 4600 SWU were spent to obtain those 120 kg of uranium enriched to 20%. Further enrichment of this amount to weapons grade requires just another 490 SWU, yielding 26 kg of uranium enriched to 90% - so approx. 90% of the enrichment work required to obtain weapons-grade material has already been spent!
Assuming that a uranium fission bomb requires around 20 kg of weapons-grade uranium, the weapons material for one bomb can be obtained by spending an additional 370 SWU on 91 kg of the 20%-enriched uranium. The amount of 20%-enriched material produced thus already exceeds that required for one bomb, and the additional 370 SWU required are just approx. 9.6% of the 3860 SWU in total required for one bomb. Iran already has spent more than 90% of the separative work required to obtain the weapons-grade material for its first nuclear bomb.
> For the calculations, see: Uranium Enrichment Calculator]
Iran has produced 55 kg of uranium enriched to 20% since January: more than half of separative work required for nuclear bomb already spent
Iran has made 55 kg of uranium enriched to up to 20% - the point at which it is highly enriched - indicating quicker production than the 10 kg a month rate required by an Iranian law that created the process in January, Iranian authorities said on Wednesday (Apr. 7).
Iran's hardline parliament passed a law last year that obliges the government to harden its nuclear stance, partly in reaction to former President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018.
Trump's withdrawal prompted Iran to steadily overstep the accord's limits on its nuclear programme designed to make it harder to develop an atomic bomb - an ambition Tehran denies.
The law required Iran to start enriching to 20% and stipulated that at least 120 kg (265 pounds) of uranium refined to that level be made each year, which amounts to 10 kg a month.
Iran's production rate is already "up to 40%" faster than that, Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi indicated.
"In less than four months we have produced 55 kg of 20% enriched uranium ... in around eight months we can reach 120 kg," Kamalvandi told state TV.
Uranium is considered highly enriched as of 20%. Enriching to 20% is a big step towards enriching to weapons-grade.
As part of a recent acceleration of its breaches of the nuclear deal, in January Iran began enriching uranium to 20% at Fordow, an underground uranium enrichment site that was built in secret inside a mountain possibly to withstand any aerial bombardment.
Under the deal, Tehran is not allowed to enrich uranium at Fordow at all.
(Reuters Apr. 7, 2021)
[Note: The assay of 20% U-235 appears to be way below the 90% required for a nuclear weapon, but in terms of separative work required, it isn't: approx. 2100 SWU were spent to obtain those 55 kg of uranium enriched to 20%. Further enrichment of this amount to weapons grade requires just another 220 SWU, yielding 12 kg of uranium enriched to 90% - so approx. 90% of the enrichment work required to obtain weapons-grade material has already been spent!
Assuming that a uranium fission bomb requires around 20 kg of weapons-grade uranium, Iran already has spent 54% of the separative work required to obtain the weapons-grade material for one bomb.
> For the calculations, see: Uranium Enrichment Calculator]
Iran resumes enrichment of uranium to 20% U-235
Iran has resumed 20% uranium enrichment at an underground nuclear facility, the government said on Monday (Jan. 4), breaching a 2015 nuclear pact with major powers and possibly complicating efforts by U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the deal.
(Reuters Jan. 4, 2021)
Iran has told the United Nations nuclear watchdog it plans to enrich uranium to 20% purity, a level it achieved before its 2015 accord, at its Fordow site buried inside a mountain, the agency said on Friday (Jan. 1).
(Reuters Jan. 1, 2021)
Iran to restart uranium enrichment at Fordo underground facility in breach of nuclear deal
Iran will start injecting uranium gas into centrifuges at its underground Fordow enrichment facility, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday (Nov. 5), a highly symbolic breach that will complicate European efforts to salvage Tehran's nuclear deal.
Under the 2015 agreement between Iran and world powers, Iran agreed to turn Fordow into a "nuclear, physics and technology center"; where 1,044 centrifuges are used for purposes other than enrichment, such as producing stable isotopes, which have a variety of civil uses.
(Reuters Nov. 5, 2019)
Iran deploys anti-aircraft missiles to Fordo enrichment plant
The Tehran government has placed Russian-supplied anti-aircraft missiles at the Fordo nuclear facility. The uranium enrichment plant was due to be scaled down under last year's deal with world powers.
Iranian state television has confirmed the deployment Sunday (Aug. 28), showing footage of an S-300 carrier truck at Fordo, raising its missile launchers towards the sky, alongside other weaponry.
(Deutsche Welle Aug. 29, 2016)
Iran to halt uranium enrichment in Fordo underground facility, according to nuclear deal
Iran and six world powers have concluded an agreement that will lift sanctions on Iran but place strict limits on its nuclear programme for more than a decade, in a historic compromise designed to stop the spread of atomic weapons and avert a major new conflict in the Middle East.
Among the conditions of the agreement are: Iran will reduce its enrichment capacity by two-thirds. It will stop using its underground facility at Fordow for enriching uranium
[leaving Natanz as Iran's only enrichment plant]. Iran's stockpile of low enriched uranium will be reduced to 300kg, a 96% reduction. It will achieve this reduction either by diluting it or shipping it out of the country. [...]
(Guardian July 14, 2015)
Iran ready to sharply increase enrichment work in Fordo underground facility - IAEA
Iran is ready to sharply expand its uranium enrichment in an underground site after installing all the centrifuges it was built for, a U.N. nuclear report showed on Friday (Nov. 16), a development likely to fuel Western alarm over Tehran's nuclear aims.
The Islamic state has put in place nearly 2,800 centrifuges that the Fordow enrichment site, buried deep inside a mountain, was designed for and could soon double the number of them operating to almost 1,400, according to the confidential International Atomic Energy Agency report obtained by Reuters.
Tehran has produced about 233 kg (512 pounds) of higher-grade enriched uranium since 2010, an increase of 43 kg since August this year, according to the report issued in Vienna.
(Reuters Nov. 16, 2012)
Iran doubles underground enrichment capacity: IAEA
Iran has doubled the number of uranium enrichment machines it has in an underground bunker, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Thursday (Aug. 30), showing Tehran's defiance towards Western pressure to stop its atomic work and the threat of Israeli attack.
The number of enrichment centrifuges at Fordow, a site buried deep inside a mountain to better protect it against any enemy strike, more than doubled to 2,140 from 1,064 in May, according to the IAEA's quarterly report. However, the new machines were not yet operating, it said.
The report showed that Iran had produced nearly 190 kg of higher-grade enriched uranium since 2010, up from 145 kg in May.
(Reuters Aug. 30, 2012)
Report: Iran begins uranium enrichment at new site near Qom
Iran has begun uranium enrichment at a new underground site well protected from possible airstrikes, a leading hardline newspaper reported Sunday (Jan. 8).
Kayhan daily, which is close to Iran's ruling clerics, said Tehran has begun injecting uranium gas into sophisticated centrifuges at the Fordo facility near the holy city of Qom.
(AP Jan. 8, 2012)
International Atomic Energy Agency's board censures construction of enrichment plant in Iran
The UN nuclear watchdog censured Iran on Friday (Nov. 27) and demanded it immediately halt construction of a newly-revealed uranium enrichment plant as world powers united against Tehran.
China and Russia joined forces with Britain, France, Germany and the United States to push through the resolution at the International Atomic Energy Agency's board.
(AFP Nov. 27, 2009)
> View IAEA release Nov. 27, 2009
> Download IAEA Board of Governors resolution Nov. 27, 2009 (PDF)
Iran reveals existence of second uranium enrichment plant
Iran has revealed the existence of a second uranium enrichment plant, the UN nuclear watchdog has confirmed.
Tehran made the announcement earlier this week in a letter to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohammed ElBaradei.
The New York Times quotes US officials as saying that the secret site - built inside a mountain near the ancient city of Qom - is not yet complete, but could be ready for operation next year.
(BBC Sep. 25, 2009)
Aerial view: Google Maps
Iran has enough uranium near weapons-grade for a nuclear bomb, IAEA report shows:
Iran's stock of uranium enriched to up to 60%, close to weapons-grade, has grown to enough, if enriched further, for a nuclear bomb, a report by the United Nations nuclear watchdog showed on Wednesday (Sep. 7). [...]
"Iran now can produce 25 kg (of uranium) at 90% if they want to," a senior diplomat said in response to Wednesday's International Atomic Energy Agency report seen by Reuters when asked if Iran had enough material enriched to 60% for one bomb.
The report said Iran's stock of uranium enriched to 60% and in the form of uranium hexafluoride, the gas that centrifuges enrich, was estimated to be 55.6 kg, an increase of 12.5 kg from the previous quarterly report.
It would take Iran roughly three to four weeks to produce enough material for a bomb if it wanted to, the diplomat said, adding that it would take the IAEA two to three days to detect a move in that direction. Iran denies intending to.
(Reuters Sep. 7, 2022)
Iran starts enriching uranium with advanced centrifuges underground at Natanz:
Iran has started enriching uranium with one of three cascades, or clusters, of advanced IR-6 centrifuges recently installed at its underground enrichment plant at Natanz, a report by the U.N. atomic watchdog to member states seen by Reuters said on Monday (Aug. 29).
(Reuters Aug. 29, 2022)
Iran has produced 43.1 kg of uranium enriched to 60%, coming closer to the amount needed for the manufacturing of a nuclear bomb:
A [...] quarterly IAEA report seen by Reuters said Iran's stockpile of uranium enriched to 60%, close to the roughly 90% that is weapons grade and in a form that can be enriched further, is estimated to have grown by 9.9 kg to 43.1 kg.
That amounts to slightly more than what the IAEA calls a "significant quantity", defined as "the approximate amount of nuclear material for which the possibility of manufacturing a nuclear explosive device cannot be excluded".
A senior diplomat cautioned, however, that in practice it would take more than 55 kg of uranium enriched to 60% to make one bomb because some material is wasted during enrichment.
"As of the moment you enrich you[r] lose material," he said.
(Reuters May 30, 2022)
Iran set up centrifuge-parts workshop underground at Natanz, IAEA says:
Iran's new workshop at Natanz for making parts for centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium, has been set up in one of the halls of the underground Fuel Enrichment Plant there, U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Rafael Grossi said on Thursday (Apr. 28).
The International Atomic Energy Agency informed its member states two weeks ago that the machines from a now-closed workshop at Karaj, which was hit by an apparent sabotage attack that Iran blames on Israel, had been moved to Natanz without specifying where exactly at the sprawling site.
(Reuters Apr. 28, 2022)
Iran's enriched uranium stock reaching amount required for nuclear bomb:
As soon as mid-to-late April, Iran is expected to reach a new dangerous, destabilizing threshold, having enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) to fashion a nuclear explosive, about 40-42 kilograms (kg) of 60 percent enriched uranium (uranium mass). With this quantity, an enrichment level of 60 percent suffices to create a relatively compact nuclear explosive; further enrichment to 80 or 90 percent is not needed. [...]
Moreover, Iran could further enrich its stock of 60 percent enriched uranium quickly to weapon-grade uranium, where this threshold quantity would be enough to produce about 25 kilograms, enough for a nuclear weapon and close to the IAEA-defined significant quantity. The delay caused by further enrichment would be measured in days if Iran used a significant part of its enrichment capacity and weeks if Iran operates just two production-scale cascades of advanced centrifuges.
> Download: Entering Dangerous, Uncharted Waters: Iran's 60 Percent Highly Enriched Uranium , Institute for Science and International Security, April 11, 2022
Iran's enriched uranium stock nearing amount required for nuclear bomb:
The stock of enriched uranium amassed by Iran in breach of its 2015 nuclear deal is growing to the point that its most highly-enriched material is most of the way to a common bomb yardstick, a report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog showed on Thursday (Mar. 3).
The report showed Iran's stock of uranium enriched to up to 60% fissile purity had almost doubled, increasing by 15.5 kg to 33.2 kg (46 to 110 pounds). A senior diplomat said that is around three-quarters of the amount needed, if enriched further, for one nuclear bomb according to a common definition.
That definition - 25 kg of uranium enriched to 90% - is a theoretical yardstick and how much is needed in real life would depend on further processes the material would still have to go through to make an actual bomb, the senior diplomat cautioned.
(Reuters Mar. 3, 2022)
> See also: Analysis of IAEA Iran Verification and Monitoring Report - March 2022 , Institute for Science and International Security, March 4, 2022
Iran has produced 25 kg of uranium enriched to 60%, meaning that 97.6% of separative work required for weapons-grade material already spent:
Iran says its stockpile of 60% enriched uranium has reached 25 kilograms, state media reported on Friday (Nov. 5).
Iran said in June it had made 6.5 kg of uranium enriched to up to 60%.
(Reuters Nov. 5, 2021)
[Note: approx. 3135 SWU were spent to obtain these 25 kg of uranium enriched to 60% U-235. Further enrichment of 25 kg U from 60% to 90% U-235 requires just another 75.5 SWU, yielding 16.6 kg of weapons-grade uranium. So, approx. 97.6% of the separative work required to obtain weapons-grade material has already been spent!]
IAEA: Iran's enrichment of uranium beyond 20% at Natanz plant is expanding:
Iran is expanding its enrichment of uranium beyond the highly enriched threshold of 20% purity at a Natanz plant where it is already enriching to 60%, but the new activity does not involve keeping the product, the U.N nuclear watchdog said on Monday (Oct. 25).
The move is likely to help Iran refine its knowledge of the enrichment process - something Western powers generally condemn because it is irreversible - but since this time the product is not being collected it will not immediately accelerate Iran's production of uranium enriched to close to weapons-grade.
"On 25 October 2021, the Agency verified that Iran began feeding (uranium hexafluoride gas) enriched up to 20% U-235 into a single IR-6 centrifuge in R&D line 2 at PFEP [Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant] and that the resulting product and tails streams were being re-combined," the IAEA report said, meaning that after separating the enriched product it was mixed with the centrifuge's waste and not kept.
Iran had said it planned to also feed uranium enriched to up to 20% into other single centrifuges or small- to medium-sized cascades, or clusters, of machines on the same line, but those were not being fed at the time, the IAEA said.
(Reuters Oct. 25, 2021)
IAEA: Iran adds more advanced centrifuges to underground enrichment plant at Natanz:
Iran has installed extra advanced centrifuges at its underground uranium enrichment plant at Natanz that was hit by a blast last week, a report by the U.N. atomic watchdog on Wednesday (Apr. 21) showed, deepening Iran's breaches of its nuclear deal with major powers.
The International Atomic Energy Agency report was not clear on how many centrifuges are in use but it gave "up to" numbers of advanced machines installed at the plant that were higher than previously indicated. The report made no mention of the explosion or its effect on the plant's activity.
"On 21 April 2021, the Agency verified at FEP [Fuel Enrichment Plant] that: ... six cascades of up to 1,044 IR-2m centrifuges; and two cascades of up to 348 IR-4 centrifuges ... were installed, of which a number were being used," the IAEA report to member states said, referring to the underground Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz. The report was seen by Reuters.
According to a previous report, the IAEA verified on March 31 that Iran was using 696 IR-2m machines and 174 IR-4 machines at the FEP.
Wednesday's report is the latest evidence that Iran is pressing ahead with the installation of the advanced machines, even though it is not allowed to use them to produce enriched uranium under the 2015 agreement.
The accord only lets Iran produce enriched uranium at its underground Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz with first-generation IR-1 centrifuges, which are far less efficient than the advanced models.
Wednesday's report also said Iran informed the IAEA that it plans to install four more cascades, or clusters, of IR-4 centrifuges at the FEP, where both of the IR-4 cascades it had planned have now been installed.
(Reuters Apr. 21, 2021)
Iran begins 60% uranium enrichment after incident at Natanz:
Iran said on Tuesday (Apr. 13) it will start enriching uranium to 60% purity, a move bringing the fissile material closer to levels suitable for a bomb, after accusing Israel of sabotaging a key nuclear installation.
A fissile purity of 90% is suitable for a nuclear bomb.
Announcing 60% enrichment, chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi also said Iran would activate 1,000 advanced centrifuge machines at Natanz, a nuclear plant hit by an explosion on Sunday (Apr. 11) that Tehran called an act of sabotage by its arch-foe Israel.
However, an Iranian official told Reuters later that "60% enrichment will be in small quantity" only.
(Reuters Apr. 13, 2021)
The speaker of Iran's parliament said on Friday (Apr. 16) that Tehran had successfully enriched 60% uranium.
(Reuters Apr. 16, 2021)
IAEA confirms Iran has started enriching uranium to 60% purity:
"The Agency today verified that Iran had begun the production of UF6 enriched up to 60%... at the (above-ground) Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant," the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.
(Reuters Apr. 17, 2021)
Iran starts up new advanced centrifuge cascades at Natanz underground enrichment plant:
Iran announced on Saturday (April 10) the commissioning of new cascades of upgraded centrifuges to enrich uranium faster, the use of which it is prohibited under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
President Hassan Rohani officially inaugurated a line of 164 so-called IR-6 centrifuges and another 30 IR-5s installed at the Natanz nuclear complex in central Iran in a videoconference ceremony broadcast on state television.
The IR-5 and IR-6 centrifuges can enrich uranium faster and in greater quantities than the "first generation" IR-1 centrifuges, the only ones that the Vienna agreement allows Iran to use.
(Le Figaro Apr. 10, 2021)
IAEA: Iran adds advanced centrifuges to underground enrichment plant at Natanz:
Iran has begun enriching uranium with a fourth cascade, or cluster, of advanced IR-2m machines at its underground Natanz plant, a report by the U.N. atomic watchdog showed, in a further breach of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
(Reuters Apr. 1, 2021)
IAEA: Iran enriching uranium with second type of advanced centrifuge at Natanz:
Iran has started enriching uranium at its underground Natanz plant with a second type of advanced centrifuge, the IR-4, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said in a report reviewed by Reuters on Tuesday (Mar. 16), in a further breach of Tehran's deal with major powers.
(Reuters Mar. 16, 2021)
IAEA: Iran enriching uranium with new set of advanced centrifuges at Natanz:
Iran has started enriching uranium with a third set of advanced IR-2m centrifuges at its underground plant at Natanz, the U.N. nuclear watchdog told its member states on Monday (Mar. 8), a further breach of Tehran's 2015 deal with major powers.
(Reuters Mar. 8, 2021)
IAEA: Iran feeds uranium hexafluoride into advanced centrifuges at Natanz underground facility:
Iran has fired up advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges that it had installed underground at its Natanz site, in the latest breach of its nuclear deal with major powers, a report by the U.N. atomic watchdog obtained by Reuters on Wednesday (Nov. 18) showed.
"On 14 November 2020, the Agency verified that Iran began feeding UF6 into the recently installed cascade of 174 IR-2m centrifuges at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) in Natanz," the IAEA report to member states dated Tuesday (Nov. 17) said.
(Reuters Nov. 18, 2020)
IAEA: Iran building at underground centrifuge assembly plant:
Inspectors from the U.N.'s atomic watchdog have confirmed Iran has started building an underground centrifuge assembly plant after its previous one exploded in what Tehran called a sabotage attack over the summer, the agency's head told The Associated Press on Tuesday (Oct. 27).
Iran also continues to stockpile greater amounts of low-enriched uranium, but does not appear to possess enough to produce a weapon, Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the AP in an interview in Berlin.
Following the July explosion at the Natanz nuclear site, Tehran said it would build a new, more secure, structure in the mountains around the area. Satellite pictures of Natanz analyzed by experts have yet to show any obvious signs of construction at the site in Iran's central Isfahan province.
(AP Oct. 27, 2020)
Iran has begun construction at its Natanz nuclear facility, satellite images released Wednesday (Oct. 28) show, just as the U.N. nuclear agency acknowledged Tehran is building an underground advanced centrifuge assembly plant after its last one exploded in a reported sabotage attack last summer.
(AP Oct. 28, 2020)
Fire at Natanz enrichment plant caused significant damage:
A fire that broke out at Iran's Natanz nuclear facility on Thursday (July 2) has caused significant damage that could slow the development of advanced centrifuges, an Iranian nuclear official said on Sunday (July 5).
Iran's top security body said on Friday (July 3) that the cause of an incident and fire at the site had been determined and would be announced later. Some Iranian officials have said it may have been caused by cyber sabotage and one warned that Tehran would retaliate against any country carrying out such attacks.
(Reuters July 5, 2020)
Iran has boosted uranium enrichment capacity at Natanz:
Iran further increased its uranium enrichment capacity in the last three months, yet it also limited its progress in certain sensitive areas of its disputed nuclear program in an apparent attempt to avoid risking retaliation from Israel or the United States, according to a report issued Wednesday (May 22) by the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency.
The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna said that since February Iran has added more than 520 advanced-design IR-2M centrifuges at its plant in Natanz. The model has up to five times the capacity of the first-generation centrifuges to enrich uranium.
The installations bring to about 700 the total number of the IR-2M centrifuges, toward Iran's goal of 3,132.
(Los Angeles Times May 22, 2013)
Iran installs advanced centrifuges at Natanz uranium enrichment plant:
Iran has begun installing advanced centrifuges at its main uranium enrichment plant, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Thursday (Feb. 21), a defiant step that will worry Western powers ahead of a resumption of talks with Tehran next week.
In a confidential report, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said 180 so-called IR-2m centrifuges and empty centrifuge casings had been put in place at the facility near the central town of Natanz. They were not yet operating.
If launched successfully, such machines could enable Iran to speed up significantly its accumulation of material that the West fears could be used to devise a nuclear weapon. Iran says it is refining uranium only for peaceful energy purposes.
(Reuters Feb. 21, 2013)
"I am proud to announce that we have started enriching uranium to the 3.5 percent level," Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI ), said on April 11, 2006, adding that the pilot enrichment plant in Natanz, south of Tehran, had started working on April 10, 2006.
Influential former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said earlier on April 11, 2006, that Iran was producing enriched uranium from a cascade of 164 centrifuges.
(Reuters Apr. 11, 2006)
International inspectors visiting Iran were shown a small network of centrifuges for enriching uranium, spurring concerns that Iran is making headway in its suspected program to develop nuclear weapons. The site in question is near the city of Natanz [located between Isfahan and Kashan in central Iran]. (New York Times Feb. 23, 2003)
First steps have been taken to build an uranium centrifuge enrichment plant at Kashan in central Iran, according to Gholamreza Aqazadeh, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation. (Reuters Feb. 12, 2003)
> View details on Natanz enrichment plant: ISIS · GlobalSecurity.org
Aerial view: Google Maps
> View older issues
> See also:
Uranium Enrichment and Fuel Fabrication: New Project Issues (Japan) · Decommissioning Issues (Japan)
Protest against arrival of MOX fuel shipment in Japan
A cargo ship carrying uranium-plutonium mixed-oxide fuel processed in France arrived Wednesday (Nov. 17) at a nuclear power plant in central Japan, the third such shipment since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The shipment of MOX fuel will be used for the No. 3 and 4 reactors at the Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, according to the plant operator Kansai Electric Power Co.
Around 20 local residents protested outside the plant against the arrival of the MOX fuel shipment that left France in September, saying the fuel should not be used due to the risk of plutonium being diverted to make nuclear weapons.
(Mainichi Nov. 17, 2021)
Japans sends some weapons-grade plutonium and highly enriched uranium to the U.S. for downblending
A ship thought to be carrying 331 kilograms of plutonium as well as highly enriched uranium kept by Japan is en route to the United States, where the material will be downgraded.
The vessel left a port in this prefecture northeast of Tokyo on March 22. The shipment, although not officially acknowledged by the Japanese government for security reasons, is part of a program to reduce Japan's stockpile of weapons-grade nuclear materials.
The transfer of research-purpose plutonium and highly-enriched uranium is based on a 2014 Japan-U.S. agreement to hand over the material to the United States. Japan's cooperation reflects U.S. efforts to reduce nuclear material that could be targeted by terrorists for their use.
(Asahi Shimbun Mar. 23, 2016)
Japan's MOX fuel imports cost up to nine times more than conventional uranium fuel
Five nuclear plant operators have spent at least ¥99.4 billion (US$ 836 million) on imports of plutonium-containing mixed oxide (MOX) fuel since it was first shipped to Japan in 1999, Jiji Press learned on Saturday (Feb. 21).
Some of the imports cost nine times more than conventional uranium fuel.
Japanese power companies that use or plan to use the MOX fuel commission the fuel's production from companies in France and elsewhere.
The five that imported MOX fuel are Tokyo Electric Power Co., Chubu Electric Power Co., Kansai Electric Power Co., Shikoku Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co., according to the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan.
Of the five, Kansai Electric, Shikoku Electric and Kyushu Electric have revised their monthly power rates to reflect the cost of using MOX fuel.
Since 1999, MOX fuel has been shipped to six of the five companies' nuclear power stations. Trade statistics compiled by the Finance Ministry and other data show that the imports since that time have totaled ¥99.437 billion (US$ 836 million), including the costs of transportation and insurance.
In June 2013, Kansai Electric imported 20 units of MOX fuel assemblies from France for ¥18.514 billion (US$ 156 million) for use at the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Takahama power station in Fukui Prefecture.
The average cost per unit stood at ¥925 million (US$ 7.78 million), compared with the average of around ¥103 million (US$ 0.865 million) for 60 units of conventional uranium fuel that Kansai Electric imported from the United States between October and November that year, also for use at the two reactors.
(Japan Times Feb. 22, 2015)
Japan's plutonium stockpile increased to 47.1 tonnes in 2013
Japan possessed about 47.1 tons of plutonium in and outside the country as of the end of 2013, up some 2.9 tons from the year before, the Cabinet Office said Tuesday (Sep. 16).
Newly added were 2.3 tons generated through spent fuel reprocessing outsourced to Britain and 640 kg Japan had not reported to the global watchdog in 2012 and 2013. The 640 kg is part of mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) fuel stored in a reactor that was offline during this period.
Of the 47 tons of plutonium Japan owns, about 10.8 tons have been stored in the country and the remaining portion kept in Britain and France, where spent nuclear fuel from Japanese power plants has been reprocessed.
(Japan Times Sep. 17, 2014)
Japan's utilities fail to report plans for plutonium usage
The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan has violated government policy by failing to compile a plan on how it intends to use the half ton of plutonium it expects to extract from spent fuel in fiscal 2012, sources said Saturday (Apr. 21).
The deadline was March 31, when fiscal 2011 ended. Without a plan, Japan could come under international fire again for its blatant lack of transparency, given the risks of the plutonium being diverted for nuclear weapons use or terrorism.
In 2010, the federation said that by the end of March 2016, 5.5 to 6.5 tons of plutonium will be used each year at 16 to 18 of the reactors across Japan, but the viability of the project has been threatened by the Fukushima disaster.
(The Japan Times Apr. 23, 2012)
Russia, Japan sign agreement on nuclear fuel supply
Russia and Japan signed an intergovernmental nuclear cooperation deal on Tuesday (May 12, 2009) during Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's visit to Tokyo.
The agreement opens the door for cooperation in the field of nuclear fuel cycle services and the construction of nuclear power plants.
Russia's nuclear chief said that the signing of the intergovernmental civilian nuclear power agreement would clear the way for Russia to supply low-enriched uranium to Japan worth hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars.
(RIA Novosti May 12, 2009)
Japanese government releases first detailed English translation of plutonium holdings report
In response to a request from Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) , for the first time the Japanese government has published a detailed English translation of its plutonium holdings report (as at 31 December 2006). The data includes input-output balance sheets.
The latest report includes data for the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant for
the first time. Active testing using spent fuel began at Rokkasho on 31
March 2006 and the first plutonium-uranium mixed oxide product (MOX)
was produced on 16 November 2006.
> Download The Current Situation of Plutonium Management in Japan, 18 September 2007 (88k PDF - in English, Atomic Energy Commission)
Plutonium separated from Japanese spent fuel continues to be piled up
On 23 February 2007 the Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPCO) published a compilation of Japan's electric power companies' "plutonium utilization plans" for the 2007 Fiscal Year (1 April 2007 - 31 March 2008).
Once again no indication is given of by when the plutonium separated at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant will be used up. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the plutonium separated at Rokkasho will simply increase the size of Japan's already huge plutonium stockpile (43.1 tons at last count).
> View: Japan's Plutonium Use Plan, 2007 Fiscal Year (CNIC)
JNFL starts operating new centrifuges at Rokkasho-mura uranium enrichment plant
Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. started on Wednesday (Dec. 28) the operation of new, more efficient centrifuges at its uranium enrichment plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture.
After a warm-up operation, the centrifuges -- each capable of processing enrichment four to five times more efficiently than a previous one -- will start producing uranium products around March, the company said.
In one year of operation, the new centrifuges can enrich one-third of uranium required for a 1-gigawatt reactor per year, according to the operator.
Japan Nuclear Fuel plans to replace all old units with new ones over the next decade at the enrichment facility that went on-stream in 1992.
(Mainichi Daily News Dec. 29, 2011)
On March 9, 2012, Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL) announced the commencement of commercial operation of the first half of the initial installation for the centrifuge units renewal work at the Rokkasho Uranium Enrichment Plant.
RE-2A, which has now a capacity of 37.5tSWU/year, has started commercial operation on March 9th. This is the first half of the initial installation of the 75tSWU/year plant to be finally constructed.
JNFL suspends enrichment operations at Rokkasho-mura for centrifuge renewal
A Japanese company with uranium enrichment technology said Tuesday it will suspend production of enriched uranium at its facilities in the village of Rokkasho in Aomori Prefecture, northeastern Japan, from Wednesday (Dec. 15) for the installation of updated centrifuges.
Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. said it will suspend the operation of its only running centrifuge unit as a precautionary measure because centrifuges in another unit at the same plant are being renewed for the planned start of operations from September 2011.
(AP Dec. 14, 2010)
JNFL starts test of advanced centrifuge cascade
On November 12, 2007, Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited started the cascade test using uranium hexafluoride at its Centrifuge Test Facility.
JNFL intends to introduce this new centrifuge machine, replacing the existing machine around 2010, and bring the capacity up to 1,500 t SWU/year, within about 10 years time.
Court rejects appeal by residents opposed to Rokkasho uranium enrichment plant
On May 9, 2006, a Japanese high court rejected an appeal by 77 residents demanding that the government revoke a decision to allow construction of a uranium enrichment plant in northern Japan, a court official said.
The Sendai High Court upheld a lower court ruling and dismissed the appeal, said court spokesman Hiroki Kadowaki, who declined to provide any details of the ruling.
(AP May 9, 2006)
Court dismisses suit against Rokkasho enrichment plant
On March 15, 2002, the Aomori District Court dismissed a suit filed almost 13 years ago by citizens seeking a revocation of government approval for a uranium enrichment plant in the village of Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, ruling the government's safety check was appropriate.
Presiding Judge Tsutomu Yamazaki dismissed the plaintiffs' claim that the uranium plant should not have been approved because the facility could be vulnerable to massive earthquakes, plane crashes and major nuclear accidents.
(Kyodo March 15, 2002)
On September 30, 1999, a criticality accident occured at the Tokai nuclear fuel plant in Japan.
> see extra page
Fire in Nuclear Fuel Industries Ltd. Tokai nuclear fuel plant
A fire broke out inside a controlled area at a nuclear fuel plant here on Feb. 14, but no radioactive materials leaked and no one was injured or exposed to radiation, plant officials said.
The Tokai Works of Nuclear Fuel Industries Ltd. -- a manufacturer of nuclear reactor fuel in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture -- saw the fire break out at around 5:40 p.m. on Feb. 14. The fire went out by itself shortly afterward, according to the company.
(Mainichi Feb. 16, 2014)
Mitsubishi Tokai nuclear fuel plant to resume operations after upgrades completed
Mitsubishi Nuclear Fuel Co (MNF), a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, has announced that it intends to resume production of pressurised water reactor (PWR) fuel at its Tokai plant after receiving approval from Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA).
The NRA introduced new regulatory standards in 2013, following the Fukushima accident. MNF suspended production at the Tokai-mura fabrication plant in Ibaraki prefecture in 2018 while construction work was carried out to meet the new requirements. This came after NRA inspectors found 200 miniscule cracks found in ventilation ducts at MNF's uranium fuel manufacturing plant.
(NEI Magazine Aug. 31, 2022)
200 miniscule cracks found in ducts at Mitsubishi Tokai nuclear fuel plant
Japan's nuclear watchdog has reported that 200 or so cracks were found in ventilation ducts at the uranium fuel manufacturing plant here operated by Mitsubishi Nuclear Fuel Co.
However, the company said there had been no discharge of radioactive substances.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority requested MNF to review its way of operating and carrying out inspections.
The company began checking the ventilation ducts at its Tokai plant after dusty extraneous matter was spotted by an NRA inspector in March.
(Asahi Shimbun Aug. 22, 2018)
GNF-Japan Kurihama fuel fabrication plant obtains final approval for restart - without public involvement
Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has approved the restart of Global Nuclear Fuel-Japan's (GNF-J's) fuel fabrication plant in Yokosuka in Kanagawa Prefecture. Last month the regulator concluded the facility meets revised safety standards.
GNF-J applied to the regulator in April 2014 for an assessment to confirm the Yokosuka plant meets revised safety standards, introduced in December 2013. GNF-J is part of the GE-led Global Nuclear Fuel joint venture with Hitachi and Toshiba, which designs and manufactures fuel for boiling water reactors.
On 8 March 2017, the NRA approved a draft review report confirming that GNF-J's uranium dioxide fuel fabrication facility is compatible with the new standards. The plant became the first fuel cycle facility to be confirmed as meet them.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry approved the restart of the facility on 29 March. At a meeting yesterday, the NRA commissioners gave the final approval needed for the plant to restart. Unlike with power reactors, the NRA said it was not necessary for GNF-J to seek approval from the Japan Atomic Energy Commission or the public to restart the facility.
(World Nuclear News Apr. 6, 2017)
> See also:
Uranium Enrichment and Fuel Fabrication: New Project Issues (Kazakhstan) · Decommissioning Issues (Kazakhstan)
> Ulba Metallurgical Plant
> Aerial view: Google Maps
New fuel assembly plant opened at Ulba nuclear fuel plant
On November 10, 2021, the official opening ceremony for the new Ulba Fuel Assembly [FA] plant was held.
Ulba-FA LLP is a Kazakhstani and Chinese joint venture; the founders are UMP JSC (a subsidiary of NAC Kazatomprom JSC) holding a 51% interest, and CGNPC-URC (a subsidiary of China General Nuclear Power Corporation), holding a 49% interest.
The state-of-the-art technology of French company Framatome, one of the global leaders in fuel assembly manufacturing, was selected to be used for the Ulba-FA LLP plant.
A single FA consists of 264 fuel rods, which are long metal rods loaded with uranium fuel pellets, which are manufactured by the Ulba Metallurgical Plant. Therefore, in addition to its own new production, the new FA plant will also be using the pellet manufacturing capabilities of the Ulba Metallurgical Plant.
Ulba-FA LLP has obtained a Framatome certificate confirming that the plant is authorized and capable of manufacturing AFA 3GTM assemblies with a capacity of 200 tons of uranium per year. Moreover, all requirements of CGNPC-URC, the guaranteed purchaser of the fuel assemblies, have been met, and the plant has obtained the status of being a certified supplier for the Chinese nuclear industry.
(Kazatomprom Nov. 10, 2021)
Kazatomprom and Areva set up nuclear fuel joint venture
On Nov. 4, 2011, Areva and Kazatomprom signed an agreement on the construction of a new production line at the nuclear fuel manufacturing facility in Ulba. Construction is to start in 2012, once the feasibility study has been completed.
(Usine Nouvelle Nov. 4, 2011)
On Oct. 27, 2010, Areva and Kazatomprom signed an agreement to create a fuel fabrication joint-venture.
The new company, owned 51 % by Kazatomprom and 49 % by Areva, is to build a new fuel assembly manufacturing line based on the Areva design for the Ulba facility, located in the East of Kazakhstan. The new 400-ton per year capacity unit is scheduled to start operating in 2014.
The joint-venture IFASTAR owned 51% by Areva and 49% by Kazatomprom created by the two partners last year will commercialize production.
(Areva Oct. 27, 2010)
On Oct. 6, 2009, Areva and Kazatomprom signed an agreement to create a Fuel Marketing Joint Venture named IFASTAR.
Under the terms of the agreement, the newly created Paris-based IFASTAR will be owned jointly by Areva (51%) and Kazatomprom (49%). The mission of IFASTAR is to perform a Feasibility Study consisting of two parts:
Depending on the results of the assessment, and after decision of the partners, IFASTAR would run the sales of the products from this line while the fuel manufacturing itself would be performed by another joint venture, owned jointly by Kazatomprom (51%) and Areva (49%).
(Areva/Kazatomprom Oct. 6, 2009)
- The assessment of the Asian market in view of selling integrated fuel packages (including all front-end segments and combining Kazatomprom's uranium resources and Areva's fuel technology) to electric utilities operating in Asia,
- The assessment of the technical and economical feasibility of the construction of a dedicated fuel manufacturing line (400 tU/year) located at Kazatomprom's Ulba Metallurgical Plant (UMP) site in Ust-Kamenogorsk (Kazakhstan).
Japanese utiliy to outsource uranium reconversion to Kazakhstan
Japan's Kansai Electric Power Co. will outsource uranium reconversion, a process to convert enriched uranium hexafluoride into uranium oxide, to Kazakh state-run nuclear energy firm Kazatomprom.
The outsourcing will be made through Tokyo-based Nuclear Fuel Industries Ltd. , informed sources said.
A memorandum of understanding for the deal will be signed later in the day, the sources said.
Kazatomprom is expected to launch uranium reconversion for Kansai Electric at a plant in Kazakhstan in 2010, the sources said.
(Japan Corporate News Network Dec. 26, 2007)
Ulba Metallurgical Plant starts downblending of weapons-grade uranium
On October 8th, 2005, a U.S.-based nonproliferation group and Kazakh officials unveiled a project to eliminate about three tons of weapons-grade nuclear fuel which could be used to make some two dozen atomic bombs.
Under the project, about 6,400 pounds (2,900 kg) of nuclear fuel containing highly enriched uranium from a mothballed Soviet-built nuclear reactor in western Kazakhstan will be blended down at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Eastern Kazakhstan so that it cannot be used to make bombs. The uranium, less than 5 percent enriched, will be used for fuel for civilian reactors.
The $2 million project was initiated by the Nuclear Threat Initiative , a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the threat of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The U.S. group and the Kazakh nuclear industry shared the costs.
(AP Oct. 8, 2005)
U.S. DOE, GNF, and RWE Nukem to assist Ulba plant in Oskemen in uranium extraction
"Under the project, a former nuclear weapons plant in Kazahkstan will develop its capability to separate low-enriched uranium from uranium concentrates with assistance from two private U.S. companies and Brookhaven National Laboratory. The uranium will then be made available as a power source to civilian power reactors throughout the world."
> DOE release Jan. 30, 2002
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> See also:
Uranium Enrichment and Fuel Fabrication: New Project Issues (Korea, DPR) · Decommissioning Issues (Korea, DPR)
North Korea has expanded its enriched uranium facility, U.N. nuclear inspector says:
North Korea has doubled the size of its facility for enriching uranium in recent years, according to the United Nations' top nuclear inspector, who voiced doubt that a diplomatic agreement can end leader Kim Jong Un's weapons programs.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Monday (Mar. 20), Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, described North Korea as rapidly advancing its capacity to produce nuclear weapons on two fronts: the production of plutonium at its Yongbyon nuclear facility and the enrichment of uranium.
(Wall Street Journal Mar. 20, 2017)
Suspected Kangson uranium enrichment plant may rather be manufacturing centrifuge components - report:
In 2018, suspicions surfaced that North Korea, in addition to its major nuclear plant in Yongbyon, has another uranium-enrichment plant, believed to be called Kangson, located in Chollima-guyok, just southwest of Pyongyang. The facility was reportedly opened in the early 2000s, prior to the Yongbyon plant, and to have begun operating by 2003.
North Korea's suspected uranium-enrichment plant, Kangson, may actually be producing components for centrifuges, devices used to enrich uranium, rather than actually enriching uranium, a former official of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) claimed on Friday (Dec. 18).
(AFP Dec. 19, 2020)
North Korea 'Has New Uranium Enrichment Facility':
North Korea built a new underground uranium enrichment facility in Tongchang, North Pyongan Province in 2006, separately from the existing one at Yongbyon in the same province, Liberty Forward Party lawmaker Park Sun-young claimed Wednesday (Oct. 19).
Park said she had the information from a North Korean Army lieutenant colonel she only identified as Lee (52), who she claimed supervised security when the regime built the new facility.
"Construction began in 2001 and was completed in 2006," Park said. "After a test run in 2007, it began extracting enriched uranium in 2009."
"The Yongbyon facility is an empty structure that was built in preparation for an international inspection, but the new facility in Tongchang is the real uranium enrichment facility," she said.
(The Chosun Ilbo Oct. 20, 2011)
> Aerial view: Google Maps
North Korea expanding Yongbyon uranium enrichment plant, according to satellite images:
Recent satellite images shows North Korea is expanding a uranium enrichment plant at its main Yongbyon nuclear complex, a sign that it's intent on boosting the production of bomb materials, experts say.
The assessment comes after North Korea recently raised tensions by performing its first missile tests in six months amid long-dormant nuclear disarmament diplomacy with the United States.
"The expansion of the enrichment plant probably indicates that North Korea plans to increase its production of weapons-grade uranium at the Yongbyon site by as much as 25 percent," Jeffrey Lewis and two other experts at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey said in a report.
The report said satellite images taken by Maxar shows construction in an area adjoining the uranium enrichment plant at Yongbyon.
(AP Sep. 18, 2021)
New North Korea enrichment facility could boost weapons fuel: report:
North Korea is operating a new nuclear facility that could double its known capacity to produce uranium-enriched fuel for nuclear weapons, a South Korean news report said on Wednesday (Nov. 5).
The move, if true, would be a further step in defiance of international pressure on Pyongyang to end its nuclear program in the form of layers of U.N. sanctions.
The new facility sits right next to a plant where in 2010 the North allowed a team of U.S. nuclear experts to tour what one described as a sophisticated and "industrial-scale" uranium enrichment facility.
"We've discovered the plant has recently been completed and is now in operation," South Korea's Joongang Ilbo newspaper, a mainstream daily, quoted a government official who handles intelligence on North Korea as saying.
Images taken by U.S. intelligence authorities with cameras mounted with heat sensors revealed telltale signs pointing to the operation of centrifuges inside the plant, the official was quoted as saying.
(Reuters Nov. 5, 2014)
North Korea has secretly built a uranium enrichment plant:
North Korea has secretly and quickly built a new facility to enrich uranium, according to an American nuclear scientist, raising fears that the North is ramping up its nuclear program despite international pressure.
The scientist, Siegfried Hecker, said in a report posted Saturday (Nov. 20) that he was taken during a recent trip to the North's main Yongbyon atomic complex to a facility with a small industrial-scale uranium enrichment facility. The facility had 2,000 recently completed centrifuges, he said, and the North told him it was producing low-enriched uranium meant for a new reactor.
The facilities appeared to be primarily for civilian nuclear power, not for North Korea's nuclear arsenal, said Hecker, former director of the U.S. Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory and a regular visitor to the North. He said he saw no evidence of plutonium production. But, he said, the facilities "could be readily converted to produce highly enriched uranium bomb fuel."
Uranium enrichment would give the North a second way to make atomic bombs, in addition to its known plutonium-based program.
(AP Nov. 21, 2010)
> Download report: A Return Trip to North Korea's Yongbyon Nuclear Complex , by Siegfried S. Hecker, Nov. 20, 2010 (122k PDF - Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University)
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