Origins of the Iranian Nuclear Program
by Queen Nefertari
Since the splitting
of atoms was discovered in the early 1940's, every nation on Earth
has attempted and even succeeded in the proliferation of nuclear
materials. Although many use nuclear power plants to provide an
oil independent energy supply, many nationals use the plants to
strengthen their nations' defense. Once a nation gains the status
of a "nuclear superpower", they are rarely pestered. Through
the story of the Iranian nuclear power program, one can witness
a first-hand glance as to how these bio-hazardous plants come into
being, and why they continue to emerge. The production of nuclear
plants may be given the false alibi of energy production, but you
will see the political and military influences that follow their
path to inception.
roots can be traced as far back as 1967. Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi
created a nuclear power program that called for the construction
of 23 nuclear reactors dispersed throughout Iran. Date of completion
was originally set for 1994. The first stage of his plan came after
the shah had purchased a 5 megawatt light water reactor (LWR) from
the United States along with "hot cells," heavily shielded
rooms used to separate grams of material. The reactor was placed
in the Amirabad Technical College in Tehran for training purposes.
The hot cells have proven to be a key element for the establishment
of a successful infrastructure.
The year 1967
was not randomly chosen. That was also the year that gave birth
to the infamous 6-Day War where Israel had defeated the Egyptian,
Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi armies in a three fronts attack. Israel,
roughly the size of New Jersey, now claimed the leading authority
in the region, a fact that unsettled many of her neighbors. Since
the 1950's, Israel had dominated the Middle East as being the only
country with nuclear capabilities in the region. The Israeli nuclear
program has and still is publicly kept a secret and denied. One
cannot deny, however, the incessant fear the Shah and his kingdom
felt if this rumor should one day proves itself true. The Shah felt
it imperative the powers in the region needed to be counterbalanced.
The Shah was quoted as saying, "An Iranian bomb would break
Israel's nuclear monopoly and balance the power in the Middle East."
the purchase of the reactor from the U.S. was the starting point
for Iran's nuclear program, however it did not gain crucial momentum
until 1973. This was the year that talks and negotiations began
between Iran and West Germany on nuclear assistance. In 1974 the
deal was struck and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI)
was created. A West German contractor, Siemens agreed to build two
1200-1300 megawatt electric LWRs at Bushehr, a city known for its
militarily strategic location in the Southwest corridor of Iran.
The German government's Kraftwerk Union AG (KWU) also a subsidiary
of Siemans, had designed and built nuclear power plants since the
mid-50's. This came shortly after another Israeli defeat in the
region, and the first attempt by Iraq to lay claim to Kuwait. In
the early years, reactors were purchased from West Germany, France
and the U.S.
trained in these countries in addition to Great Britain, Italy,
Belgium, Canada and Argentina. These simply provided information
on the obtaining of nuclear energy, however the Shah had a different
agenda. September of 1974 he stated, "The present world is
confronted with a problem of some countries possessing nuclear weapons
and some not. We are among those who do not possess nuclear weapons
so the friendship of a country such as the United States with its
arsenal of nuclear weapons, is absolutely vital."
India was an
early supporter of Iran's nuclear mission. There is speculation
that the nuclear experiments of India, May 1974, gave the Shah inspiration
to form AEOI later that year. It is no speculations that the tensions
were rising between India and Pakistan. The Shah defined that any
attack on Pakistan was an attack on Iran. From that moment on, India
was regarded as a potential adversary.
program was partly meant to impede any Soviet intervention in the
region as per the obligations outlined in the Central Treaty Organization.
Iran had always felt the heat of Russia breathing down her northern
border in fear the Russians would come after the Iranian oil supply.
The pressure was intensified when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan
in the origin of the Iranian nuclear program ere imposing threats
from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Prior to the Iran-Iraq war, the
two were great rivals, arguing over borders and water resources.
Iraq had supported revolutionaries in opposition to the Iranian
regimes. After Baghdad heard of the Iranian nuclear program, efforts
were intensified to create an Iraqi nuclear program.
The Fall of The Pahlavi Dynasty
After the 1979
Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini made it his top priority
as Iran's new leader to rid the country of every aspect of the Pahlavi
Dynasty, including the nuclear program. Khomeini referred to the
nuclear program and its reactors as "anti-Islamic." With
Bushehr I reactor 85% complete and Bushehr II partially complete,
West Germany stopped construction immediately and returned home.
Iran's nuclear program was temporarily put on a hiatus.
The Iran-Iraq War
the Iranian Revolution, the Iran-Iraq War ensued. The main targets
for the battle were each country's reactors. Iran's first struck
nearly annihilating Iraq's Osirak reactor. Iraq answered by nearly
wiping out the reactors at Bushehr. Before Iran would see the end
of the war, Iraq would lead an air campaign striking the reactors
eight separate times, the first on March 24, 1984; two in 1985;
one in 1986 and the last occurring in 1988.
Russian and Chinese Assistance
Since the 1980's,
China has been Iran's main supplier of nuclear related materials
and technologies. Three sub critical and zero-power reactors have
been supplied by China in addition to an Electro-magnetic Isotope
Separation (EMIS) machine and a 30-kilowatt thermal research reactor.
China has also helped Iran build uranium mining facilities, fuel
fabrication, uranium purification and zirconium tube production
capabilities. Minute quantities of nuclear materials have been used
to train Iranian plant employees on how to separate nuclear materials.
In 1994, China
signed a preliminary agreement to supply Iran with 2,300 megawatt
electric LWRs. The agreement specifies China will not aid in weapons
design or manufacturing. The agreement maintains continuity with
the Non Proliferation Treaty, with which both parties are signatories
of, Iran signed on February 2, 1970. January 1995, Russian Foreign
Minister Victor Mikhalilov and Iranian Vice President of AEOI, Ruhollah
Amrollahi, signed a secret protocol committing to complete the reactors
at Bushehr at the sticker price of $800 million dollars. This was
an extremely tempting offer for an economically barren country like
specified Russian commitments to negotiate additional contracts
for research reactors, development of uranium mines, Iranian AEOI
personnel training at Russian institutes and the construction of
a new centrifuge plant used for uranium enrichment. At a summit
in Moscow on May 10th, the clause calling for the centrifuge plant
was omitted. Russian officials claim all spent fuel will be sent
back to Russia. Atomic Energy Minister, Alexander Rumyantsev, has
promised that Russia will not allow Iran to have access to spend
fuel. Gary Amore, a senior nonproliferation official in the Clinton
Administration stated that Russian-Iranian coercion provides a curtain
hiding the transferring of sensitive, hard-to-track weapon related
components and interaction. This relationship provides an all too
convenient channel between the two countries for trade and hard
to detect inside dealings. IAEA officials say any program to separate
plutonium or enrich uranium is at an entry-level "pre-research
and development" stage of nuclear weapons proliferation.
What Lies Ahead
officials claim Iran is following the classic steps toward nuclear
weapons manufacturing. The Central Intelligence Agency estimates
Iran is roughly seven years from completing a nuclear bomb. Israeli
officials claim Iran is only five years from a bomb. Both sides
agree that in several years Iran will have capabilities to produce
long-rang nuclear missiles without foreign assistance. George J.
Tenet, Director of CIA, told the Senate Armed Services Committee
that Russia continues to supply Iran with the knowledge and training
in nearly all aspects of the nuclear program in addition to assistance
in building a long-range ballistic missile program. The U.S. has
continually put considerable pressure on Russia to abandon the deal.
If the Russian/Iranian and the Chinese/Iranian deals follow through,
Iran will be armed with one large LWR capable of discharging a few
hundred kilograms of plutonium per year. The U.S. Department of
Defense regards the Iranian nuclear program "top National priority."
Both Russia and Iran have repeatedly claimed the reactors are for
energy production only. If Iran is the worlds third largest producer
of fossil fuels, then why the urgency for nuclear energy?
was first written in July of 2002. Since then alarming discoveries
by satellite surveillance has proven Iran's nuclear program. Following
suit with my original proposed question, "Is Iran next?",
Iran should have been first if not second next to North Korea to
be the prime target for U.S. military action. The U.S. foreign policy
in this region has been bastardized by careless assessment and speculations,
one right after the other. Iran's silence has been taken for granted
and by ignoring her, the U.S. once again has gotten it in the ass.
With a looming economic deficit, anorexic stock market conditions,
an ongoing global war on terrorism and a potential useless war with
Iraq that will cost billions of dollars, the U.S. is left extremely
vulnerable to attack. North Korea and Iran couldn't have chosen
a better Christmas gift for Dubya, a big "fuck you." A
perfect rhetoric to the ignorant choice of going to war with the
lesser of three evils.