April 30, 2018


Born In The USA: How America Created Iran's Nuclear Program (Steve Inskeep, 9/18/15, NPR)

"It started in 1957," he says, "and ironically, it is a creation of the United States. The U.S. provided Iran with its first research reactor -- a nuclear reactor, a 5-megawatt nuclear reactor that is still functioning and still operational in Tehran."

The U.S. built that nuclear reactor in 1967 on the campus of Tehran University. It also provided Iran with fuel for that reactor -- weapons-grade enriched uranium.

Ayatollah Khomeni famously said the unfinished nuclear power plants in Bushehr should be used as silos to store wheat.

Ali Vaez, Iran expert at the International Crisis Group

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

It was part of President Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace program, an initiative to provide countries with peaceful, civilian nuclear technologies in the hope that they wouldn't pursue military nuclear programs.

The beneficiaries included Israel, India, Pakistan -- and Iran, then ruled by a U.S.-backed monarch, Shah Reza Pahlavi.

Under the program, many countries received what Iran did: their own small reactors, their own dollops of fuel. But, says Vaez, "as a result of the oil boom of the 1970s, that [Iranian] nuclear program morphed into a full-fledged civilian nuclear program."

Iran had money to exploit the knowledge it was given, and to develop scientific minds. The shah's government paid for dozens of Iranian students to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology and study nuclear engineering in the mid-1970s, the university said.

"The majority of people who returned to the country and started running the nuclear program were trained at MIT," Vaez notes.

The trainees have been central to Iran's nuclear program ever since.

There was a moment in the 1970s when American officials thought they might be making a mistake. They feared Iran would become one of the nations seeking nuclear weapons.

U.S. diplomats began negotiating to limit Iran's nuclear program. They ran into a problem familiar to diplomats today: Iran under the shah insisted it had the same right to nuclear power as any nation.

"The shah famously said that unless it was clear Iran was not being treated as a second-class country, he would look for alternative vendors and he would not work with U.S. companies to acquire nuclear technology for Iran."

Iran bought nuclear plants from West Germany and France. The research reactor at Tehran University kept working. And then the campus became famous for something else.

The Father Of Iran's Nuclear Program Recalls How It All Began (Golnaz Esfandiari, 7/03/15, Radio Liberty)

It was late in 1973 when Akbar Etemad got the call -- the shah wanted to discuss ways to launch a nuclear program that would cement Iran's place among the world's modern nations.

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi had reached the conclusion that Iran needed to diversify its energy sources for the future in order to provide for a rising population.

The Swiss-educated Etemad, an expert on atomic energy and chancellor of Bu-Ali Sina University in Hamedan, set to work on preparing a feasibility study for the construction of several nuclear power plants.

A month later he personally delivered his findings to the shah, who immediately started reading the study.

"The shah read the report in about an hour and a half, while asking questions," Etemad told RFE/RL by telephone from France. "When he was done he handed the report to [Prime Minister Amir-Abbas] Hoveyda and said: 'I fully agree with Etemad's [assessment]. This has to be carefully implemented.'"

So it was decided. Iran was going nuclear, and Etemad would be the man to steer the program.

The first step -- getting the shah up to speed so he could make informed decisions. Every week, for half a year, Etemad personally gave the shah lectures on nuclear energy and nuclear technology.

Over the course of those discussions, Etemad says, he tried to get a feel for the shah's thinking. Did he seek a nuclear program entirely for peaceful purposes, or one that would also include a military dimension?

"It wasn't easy to understand his aim," he says.

After about six months of tutoring, Etemad cautiously broached the subject.

"One day I told the shah: 'Now that you know the difference between building a reactor and a bomb, enrichment, and so on, what do you want me to do?'"

Etemad says the shah told him that the priority was to gain access to nuclear energy, but he appeared to leave his options open for the future development of a nuclear weapon.

"Right now we don't need a nuclear weapon because Iran is a major regional power," Etemad recalls the shah saying. But if in the next 10, 15, or 20 years the regional military balance changed, the shah added, "then we would have to see what needs to be done."

As a result, Etemad worked to ensure that if Iran ever decided to build a bomb, it would be able to do so.

The IAEA's Iran Report: Assessment and Implications (PETER CRAIL, DARYL G. KIMBALL, GREG THIELMANN, Volume 2, Issue 15, November 8, 2011)

Because the IAEA report is based largely on intelligence the United States and other IAEA member states have been sharing with the agency for some time, in addition to the agency's own investigations, the information in the report likely provides greater insight into current U.S. assessments about Iran's nuclear program.

The U.S. intelligence community appears to stand by the judgment made in the 2007 NIE that Iran had a nuclear weapons program that was halted in the fall of 2003. Moreover, in his testimony before a Senate committee in March 2011, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed that the intelligence community still had a high level of confidence that Iran has not yet made a decision restart its nuclear weapons program.

Because the weapons program is believed to refer to the series of projects the IAEA report details, Clapper's statement is not inconsistent with the notion that some weapons-related R&D has resumed which is not part of a determined, integrated weapons-development program of the type that Iran maintained prior to 2003.

Consistent with the finding of the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, the IAEA report says that a comprehensive weapons program (known as the AMAD Plan) "was stopped rather abruptly pursuant to a 'halt order,'" in late 2003, but that some of the program's activities were resumed later. Key personnel are still involved in those renewed activities apparently tying up loose ends regarding their prior research and development work.

Posted by at April 30, 2018 4:39 PM