We have made it very clear that if Iran acquires a nuclear capability we will do everything we can to do the same.
Although the United States is no longer part of the JCPOA, nonproliferation remains a key strategic interest for America and critical to international peace and security. As such, the Trump administration needs to have a coherent nonproliferation policy, to reiterate its commitment to the NPT, and to strengthen its supporting institutions, particularly the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA.
But a nonproliferation policy perceived as incoherent is even more damaging to US credibility and the nonproliferation regime.
Indeed, some non-nuclear weapon states under the NPT have long seen the nuclear weapon states, including the United States, as biased and selective in their implementation of the treaty, prioritizing the provisions that bar non-nuclear-weapon states from acquiring the atomic bomb, while failing to implement disarmament clauses in good faith. This, in turn, undermines the nonproliferation regime. With the US withdrawal from the JCPOA a done deal, the United States should now maintain a coherent nonproliferation policy in the Middle East and beyond to limit the damage to nuclear nonproliferation efforts.
Step 1: Reiterate support for the NPT. But the United States has long had a clear policy on the proliferation of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear weapon states, centered around a legal obligation to oppose it, as embodied by the NPT. It also bans these countries from receiving assistance in the development of these weapons.
These two articles are the cornerstones of the nonproliferation regime, which has been instrumental in keeping a lid on the number of new nuclear-armed states, limiting them to nine only. And America has supported these efforts for the past half-century. To maintain a coherent nonproliferation policy, in the Middle East and globally, the United States should reaffirm its support for the NPT.
That said, the UN Security Council has the power to create legally binding standards. Of course, White House officials must be aware of all of this. This is not the first hint from the Trump administration that Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons. This innuendo is scarcely credible. There was not the faintest indication of a current Iranian nuclear weapons program in the most recent January 29, U.
National Intelligence Estimate. The inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency have been reporting that they are getting all the access to Iranian sites to which they are entitled under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action JCPOA and that they have not detected any diversion of nuclear material or equipment to purposes unknown. It seems more probable that the Trump administration is trying to compensate for the absence of international legal legitimacy for its Iran sanctions by creating political legitimacy.
Heck, this is a no-brainer. The world will agree that it must be stopped. The U. Is there proof that Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons or, stretching a point, intends to do so after JCPOA restrictions lapse? Peter Jenkins was a British career diplomat for 33 years, following studies at the Universities of Cambridge and Harvard. He specialized in global economic and security issues. Since he has represented the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership, advised the Director of IIASA and set up a partnership, The Ambassador Partnership llp, with former diplomatic colleagues, to offer the corporate sector dispute resolution and solutions to cross-border problems.
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He was an associate fellow of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy from to He writes and speaks on nuclear and trade policy issues. I suppose the Ayatollahs have never really even slightly hinted that they might possibly have any nuclear ambitions. I suppose the Ayatollahs must be a perfect example of honest honorable people that the whole world can trust. Iran had also been making this 20 percent material at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant. Of the nearly 3, IR-1 centrifuges installed at the plant, about were contributing to the production of 20 percent enriched uranium before this activity was halted in January Fordow was considered a troubling choice for this work.
It consists of a series of chambers built into a mountain and fortified against air attack. The plant was built secretly and its existence was only revealed by President Obama in Under the JCPOA, Fordow will be converted into a nuclear research center, and no uranium enrichment or enrichment-related research and development will be permitted in the facility for the first 15 years of the agreement.
Because isotopes of different masses absorb different wavelengths of light, uranium isotopes can be separated by lasers precisely tuned to excite or ionize only the U The U is then separated out using a chemical reaction or magnetic forces that attract the excited atoms and leave behind the neutral ones.
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Iran has pursued two types of laser enrichment technology: the first, atomic vapor laser isotope separation AVLIS , has achieved the greatest success; the second, molecular laser isotope separation MLIS , appears not to have progressed as far. In the late s, Iran contracted with a second supplier for help with the study of MLIS technology. After conducting this laboratory-scale work, and before informing the IAEA of it, Iran dismantled the relevant equipment and moved it to a storage facility at Karaj. Iran has also sought the ability to produce plutonium, a second fissile material that can be used to fuel nuclear weapons.
But because plutonium exists naturally only in trace amounts, it must be manufactured in a nuclear reactor. This is done by bombarding U reactor fuel with slow neutrons.
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When the U captures a neutron, the U isotope is produced, which decays into plutonium In October , Iran acknowledged that between and it had irradiated depleted uranium dioxide targets UO2 in the reactor and then conducted plutonium separation experiments in hot cells in a nearby building. Russia has constructed a 1, megawatt pressurized light-water reactor at the Iranian port of Bushehr. Russia took over the project in , after Germany halted its construction of the plant.
This assessment is based on an estimate of the plutonium output from a typical 1, megawatt pressurized light-water power reactor. To use the plutonium from Bushehr in a nuclear weapon, however, Iran would have to construct a plant to extract plutonium from the spent reactor fuel.
Iran would also have to keep the spent fuel. After years of delay, the billion dollar reactor has reached completion. Preliminary testing began in late February and delivery of the reactor fuel needed for start-up, some 82 tons, was completed in January Iran took control of the Bushehr reactor from Russia in September According to a May French paper submitted to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Iran has sought to acquire high density radiation shielding windows for hot cells and 28 remote manipulators from the French nuclear industry.
Iran has also sought to master heavy water technology. Iran informed the IAEA that the two heavy water production lines at Arak would produce about 16 tons of heavy water annually. On May 5, , Iran also announced plans to build a 40 megawatt thermal heavy water research reactor, called the Iran Nuclear Research Reactor IR , at the same site.
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In May , the IAEA confirmed that the reactor vessel had arrived at Arak and that major components had been installed at the reactor. In June , Iran installed the main reactor vessel at Arak. Under the terms of the JCPOA, Iran was required to remove the calandria from the reactor at Arak and fill it with concrete, rendering it inoperable. Instead, with the assistance of an international consortium, Iran will redesign and rebuild the reactor to minimize the production of plutonium. The nominal power of the redesigned reactor will not exceed 20 MWth. Iran has always claimed that the IR is intended for civilian research and development and for the production of radioisotopes for medical and industrial use.
However, most states that have built this type of reactor, which is widely considered larger than necessary for research, have used it to produce bombs. It was operational and had produced natural uranium pellets to fuel the heavy water reactor at Arak. Iran ceased the production of fuel assemblies for the Arak reactor after the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action in January All previously produced fuel assemblies remained at the Fuel Manufacturing Plant.
Every country trying to develop a nuclear weapon has faced two challenges. First came the need to produce a critical mass of fissile material-uranium or plutonium-the metals needed to fuel a first-generation bomb. The second challenge was to produce a device that could cause the uranium or plutonium to explode in a nuclear chain reaction. This second process is called weaponization. A number of the activities and experiments Iran has undertaken, when coupled with its concealment efforts and its firm commitment to mastering the production of fissile material, suggest that Iran could be trying to make a nuclear device.
In September , the IAEA discovered that Iran had produced polonium, a radioisotope with a half-life of days. There have also been reports that Iran has sought deuterium gas from Russia. Deuterium gas is used, in conjunction with tritium, to boost the yield of fission bombs.