Controlling Iran's Nuclear Program
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It appears that Iran, unlike Iraq or Israel, does not have a dedicated crash program to build a nuclear bomb. Iran’s strategy is more cunning—and more difficult to stop. Iran seems to be following the Japanese model, trying to acquire all the capabilities necessary to build nuclear weapons should it make a decision to do so sometime in the future. The fact that the NPT allows states to acquire these duel-use capabilities is one of the greatest weaknesses of the current non-proliferation regime. Iran is now exploiting this legal loophole.Thus, Iran may not be conducting any weapon-specific research now, for fear that discovery of such activity would, as the United States hopes, bring united international condemnation, a cut-off of all nuclear assistance, and economic sanctions. But is is doing everything short of that. Now that its clandestine program has been disclosed, Iran is trying to minimize embarrassing disclosures of past weapons-related activities, persist in its fuel production activities, and force the rest of the world to accept a fait accompli.
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One of the reasons Iran refuses to accept guaranteed nuclear fuel from Russia is the fear of becoming energy dependent and thus subject to the whims of the fuel providers. However, as discussed above, Iran does not have sufficient uranium ore reserves to secure energy independence for any significant amount of energy generation. A complete domestic fuel cycle is not a requisite for having a strong and efficient civilian nuclear program. In fact, although 31 countries are currently operating 440 nuclear reactors and 56 countries have 284 research reactors, only 8 countries enrich uranium on an industrial scale. Most countries buy their fuel from these fuel-producing countries. It does not make economic sense for any nation to invest the billions of dollars needed for indigenous fuel fabrication unless the national infrastructure consists of 20 or more nuclear reactors. Iran has yet to begin operation of its first reactor. Its original plans detailed the construction of 7 reactors by 2020. Only when this economic fact of nuclear life was pointed out by critics of the Iranian program did officials quickly revise their plans to include 20 reactors by 2030.