Nov 19, 2010

Iran and nuclear program

Iran's nuclear program began in the Shah's era, including a plan to build 20 nuclear power reactors. Two power reactors in Bushehr, on the coast of the Persian Gulf, were started but remained unfinished when they were bombed and damaged by the Iraqis during the Iran-Iraq war. Following the revolution in 1979, all nuclear activity was suspended, though subsequently work was resumed on a somewhat more modest scale. Current plans extend to the construction of 15 power reactors and two research reactors.

Research and development efforts also were conducted by the Shah's regime on fissile material production, although these efforts were halted during the Iranian revolution and the Iran-Iraq war.
The current nuclear program is headed by the President, the commander of the Iranian Revulutionary Gaurd Corps (IRGC), the head of the Defense Industries Organization, and the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO). These leaders continue the pursuit of WMD's and support Chemical, Biological, and Nuclear programs against all pressures from the United States and its allies.
Iran ratified the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1970, and since February 1992 has allowed the IAEA to inspect any of its nuclear facilities. Prior to 2003 no IAEA inspections had revealed Tehran's violations of the NPT.
Since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, Tehran redoubled its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missiles. In addition to Iran's legitimate efforts to develop its nuclear power-generation industry, it is believed to be operating a parallel clandestine nuclear weapons program. Iran appears to be following a policy of complying with the NPT and building its nuclear power program in such a way that if the appropriate political decision is made, know-how gained in the peaceful sphere (specialists and equipment) could be used to create nuclear weapons (dual-use technologies have been sold to Iran by at least nine western companies during the early 1990's). Also, in this atmosphere of deception, unconfirmed reports have been made that Tehran purchased several nuclear warheads in the early 1990's
It is evident that Iran's efforts are focused both on uranium enrichment and a parallel plutonium effort. Iran claims it is trying to establish a complete nuclear fuel cycle to support a civilian energy program, but this same fuel cycle would be applicable to a nuclear weapons development program. Iran appears to have spread their nuclear activities around a number of sites to reduce the risk of detection or attack.
Iran does not currently have nuclear weapons, and would appear to be about two years away from acquiring nuclear weapons. By some time in 2006, however, Iran could be producting fissile material for atomic bombs using both uranium enriched at Natanz and plutonium produced at Arak. The Natanz facility might produce enough uranium for about five bombs every year, and the Arak facility might produced enough plutonium for as many as three bombs every year.
If Iran did acquire atomic bombs, it would put pressure on other countries in the region do the same. Many Arab countries believe it is unfair that Israel has nuclear weapons. If Arab countries, notably Saudi Arabia but also Egypt and possibly Syria, found themselves caught between a nuclear-armed Israel and a nuclear-armed Iran, it would greatly increase pressures to pursue their own nuclear options. This could result in a regional arms race in the Middle East which is likely to be quite destabilizing, given the number and intensity of conflicts and instabilities in the region.
In December 2003 Presidential hopeful John Kerry said that he would explore "areas of mutual interest" with Iran. And in June 2004 Kerry proposed providing nuclear fuel to Iran in exchange for Iran's abandoning the fissile material production complex at Esfahan, Arak, Natanz and other locations. In an interview on 29 August 2004, reported in the Washington Post on 30 August, Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards proposed a "Grand Bargain" with Iran, under which the US would drop objections to the nuclear power reactor at Bushehr, in exchange for Iran abandoning the material production complex. According to Edwards, if Iran rejected this offer, it would confirm that it was building atomic bombs. Edwards also said that Kerry would ensure that European allies would join the US in imposing sanctions on Iran. "If we are engaging with Iranians in an effort to reach this great bargain and if in fact this is a bluff that they are trying to develop nuclear weapons capability, then we know that our European friends will stand with us," Edwards said. "Iran is further along in developing a nuclear weapon than they were when George Bush came into office... A nuclear Iran is unacceptable for so many reasons, including the possibility that it creates a gateway and the need for other countries in the region to develop nuclear capability -- Saudi Arabia, Egypt, potentially others," Edwards said.

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