On Monday, the price of a barrel of oil reached above $80 in New York. The cause was a combination of fears over supply as a strike hit the French oil industry and the vexed issue of uranium enrichment in Iran, which is alleged to be in the intention of making nuclear weapons. The United States affirms that the intention of Iran to build two new uranium enrichment plants is "further evidence" that it does not wish to "engage" with the international community. The issue of uranium enrichment by Iran has been simmering for some time and will not go away.
The Iranians deny that they aim to build nuclear weapons but only to enrich the uranium sufficiently to generate nuclear power. Naturally occurring uranium contains 0.7 % uranium-235 which must be increased (enriched) to around 3.5 % for use as a nuclear fuel. What is left is "depleted uranium" which finds application in making heavy armour-piercing shells and tanks. The enrichment is done using a centrifuge which separates the lighter 235-UF6 from the heavier 238-UF6 in uranium hexafluoride gas. To make a nuclear weapon, the enrichment must be carried on until the uranium-235 concentration reaches nearer 90 %, which is a far more exacting process.
In view of what has happened in Iraq, i.e. a war and 30 year contracts being awarded to western companies to exploit its oil, it may prove significant that Iran has large deposits of oil and natural gas. A newly discovered gas-field in Iran is thought to contain 12.4 trillion cubic feet of gas plus 249 million tonnes of condensate, together worth an estimated $85 billion. Iran also has a similar quantity of oil to Iraq as has been estimated at 138 billion barrels. As an energy target, Iran appears an attractive prospect.
(1) "Oil rises above $80 a barrel on French strike, Iran tensions." http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financetopics/oilprices/7295010/Oil-rises-above-80-a-barrel-on-French-strike-Iran-tensions.html
(2) "Iran discovers $85 billion oil and gas reserves." http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=271256