Iran's Atomic Programs and Foreign Propaganda

Hamshahri (Morning Daily)
August 22, 25, 1996
Pages: 11, 11
By: Jalil Roshandel & Saeedeh Lotfian


Iran's atomic program, which is confined to construction of light water nuclear power plants, was launched during the reign of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, with the support of the United Nations. The first nuclear power plant of this kind was the one in Bushehr which was supposed to be built by a German company but was later left unfinished after the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The following article, while offering a short history of the atomic programs of Iran, reveals the contradictory claims raised by the United States that Iran is trying to build atomic bomb. The double standard approach of the United States to the nuclear programs of Israel and those of other countries is among the points underlined by the authors of this article.


Numerous reports have been released recently on Iran's eagerness to obtain nuclear weapons. Fear of an Iranian made atomic bomb has once again mounted as a result of the Iranian government's decision to complete the nuclear reactor of Bushehr.

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the deposed Shah of Iran, in line with his ambitious nuclear programs once announced that Iran should acquire nuclear capability.

Now with the passage of 16 years after the triumph of the Islamic Revolution and collapse of the monarchial regime in Iran and following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the anti-Iran propaganda campaign launched by the Western mass media against the Islamic Republic, there are speculations that Iran by completing its nuclear reactor in Bushehr intends to resume its past ambitious programs.

The Bushehr nuclear reactor (a 1300 megawatt light water reactor consuming enriched uranium), purchased from the Kraftwerk Union of West Germany, was left unfinished in 1979.

The power plant suffered damage in two Iraqi air raids in November 1987 and again in July 1988.

Since Iran is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has fully accepted the safety rules set by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the agency has the authority to supervise the reactor once its construction is complete.

The Shah had signed another agreement with the French company Framaton for construction of another nuclear power plant in Dar-Khowein in Ahvaz (a 935 megawatt light water reactor consuming lowly enriched uranium). The construction of the power station began simultaneously with the victory of the 1979 revolution which topped the monarchial regime in Iran.

Iran has an atomic energy research center in Tehran (a five megawatt light water reactor consuming highly enriched uranium) which was set up by the United States in 1967.

Though some Third World countries claim that Iran does not need to invest in an atomic program as an alternative source of energy replacing oil because it is one of the main oil producing countries in the region, it should be reminded that many other oil producing countries are investing in atomic energy research projects and therefore if Iran fails to do so it will lag behind a large number of countries in the world in this regard.

For the time being, Iran is not under pressure to use energy sources other than oil, but it has programs to acquire technological capability for use of nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes.

Those who claim that Iran as an oil producing country does not need atomic energy are clearly ignoring the country's power shortages and its need to generate more electricity to meet the ever increasing needs of its industries and factories. The goal of Iran in using atomic power is to generate elasticity and put into operation its water desalination plants.

To establish an atomic industry requires that a country shoulder high expenses, have necessary technological know-how and have access to raw materials. In terms of raw materials, Iran enjoys vast reserves of uranium in its Yazd Province.

During an official visit to Yazd Province recently, the Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani expressed pleasure with the discovery of three uranium mines in the province which contain 800 million tons of proven uranium reserves combined.

Iran has also agreed to enforce all safety regulations set by the International Atomic Energy Agency in all its nuclear installations.

There is assumption that the Third World countries such as Iran cannot be trusted in connection with their compliance with the provisions of the nuclear non-proliferation agreements. The assumption is based on the fact that it is not possible to monitor all countries' compliance with weapons control conventions.

The claim that Iran has never been for the non-proliferation of weapons has been the focal point of the recent propaganda aired against the Islamic Republic.

In an article carried by the magazine Foreign Affairs, Deutch wrote that signing the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was not a guarantee against proliferation of such weapons. He wrote that signing of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by Iran was the price it had to pay in order to receive more technical assistance in the field of nuclear power from the United States of America as the main supplier of such help, while in case of Iraq and Libya, as he said, it was likely for those two countries not to have any ambitions when they inked the treaty.

The claim that Iran was trying to obtain nuclear capability for military purposes is raised and disseminated by Israel. Of course, one should not be surprised at such hostile propaganda (against Iran) because Israel that wishes to be the sole atomic power of the region is deeply worried about the emergence of a second nuclear power in the Middle East. It is for this reason that Israel has time and again resorted to sabotage activities, air attacks, assassination attempts and to dissemination of false information in a bid to maintain its military superiority and no doubt that it will do the same in the future.

In April 1979, some commandos attacked a French navy jetty in Sainte sur Mer destroying containers in which the French made reactor was supposed to be carried to Iraq. In June 1980, the decomposed body of Yahya al-Mashad, an Egyptian nuclear scientist working in France-Iraq nuclear power plant was found in a hotel in Paris. In both cases, the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, was the prime suspect.

When all Israeli schemes to stop the completion of Osirak reactor in Iraq failed, Israeli fighter planes bombed and demolished the plant in 1981.

Today, the Israeli government, without offering any evidence, has accused Iran of attempting to obtain atomic bombs for use against the Jewish government while all existing evidences indicate that it is Israel's atomic activities that should be carefully monitored.

An Israeli nuclear technician in an interview published by the Sunday Times in 1986 confessed that he had been working in the basement of secret arms factory producing atomic bombs for nine years.

Israel, as a country that has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and as a country possessing clandestine reactor poses a great threat to the region. All efforts to prevent the number of nuclear powers from going up should be directed towards Israel.

There are even false reports on the sale of atomic warheads by Kazakhstan to Iran. Iran has denied planning to buy or build atomic weapons or any other types of weapons of mass destruction. Iranian officials believe that if the country's nuclear policy is to be assessed as it really is, Iran's support for the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (and its acceptance of the treaty's controls and periodical inspection terms) will be enough to reveal that Iran is not after military-oriented nuclear capability.

A report prepared by the U.S. government on ways of detecting nuclear tests concludes that seismography is a means for detecting all types of underground nuclear tests despite all efforts to hide those tests from early warning systems. Therefore, seismography is an important technique to find out compliance with or breach of the treaty.

Other instruments for substantiating the commitment to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty are: Worldwide network of early warning stations for detection of radiation caused by clandestine nuclear bomb explosions, satellite pictures and site inspections.

No need to say that a government which fails to abide by its obligations will not probably allow inspection of its nuclear test sites, no matter what the consequences may be, as was the case with North Korea.

It is important to know if such inspections are obligatory or on a voluntary basis. In other words, to allow voluntarily the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect and monitor a country's nuclear installations is another way for that country to build confidence.

A team of IAEA experts came to Iran and inspected its atomic research center at the invitation of the Iranian government in 1991. The inspectors did not find any evidence in support of the accusations leveled against Iran's atomic programs.

The IAEA President Hans Blix, addressing a press conference in 1991, announced that Iran was the first country to invite IAEA inspectors to visit any parts of the Iran they deemed necessary.

If Iran was to declare a peaceful impartiality policy, then would the big powers allow the construction of its nuclear power plant (in Bushehr)?

One should bear in mind that a government should not necessarily have a nuclear reactor to get atomic materials.

Coningham and Fitzpatrick (1983) explain how Israel stole atomic materials in 1977. The press at last learnt of the disappearance of a cargo ship en route to Italy from West Germany. A few years later, the ship was found under a different flag with its staff and captain changing their names. Only the cargo aboard the ship containing 200 tons of uranium placed in barrels falsely labeled plumb at (instead of plumbum) lead had vanished. Finally intelligence sources came to the conclusion that all the 200 tons of uranium had gone to Israel.

At the end of 1976, 8,000 tons of enriched uranium and plutonium were lost in the nuclear installations of the United States. The disappearance of 200 pounds of enriched uranium from a nuclear institute in Pennsylvania was one of the most alarming cases of atomic material losses. That theft too was attributed to the Israeli intelligence service.

There is no consensus on the necessity of nuclear tests. It is claimed that testing a weapon is good from technical point of view but dangerous from political point of view.

The political reactions to India's explosion of an atomic bomb in 1974 forced other governments to restrain from carrying out nuclear tests.

Israel, Pakistan and South Africa have never embarked on carrying out nuclear tests. Nevertheless, the majority of weapon designers believe that such tests are necessary not only for modernization of the first generation nuclear arms but also for expansion of the so called third generation weapons. It is necessary for the nuclear powers to test every type of atomic weapons before stockpiling them.

Actually, 1,923 atomic blasts occurred from July 16, 1945 to December 31, 1991. Of the nuclear tests, 936 were carried out by the United States, 715 by the Soviet Union, 192 by France, 46 by Britain, 36 by the People's Republic of China and one by India.

Why are a large number of countries willing to increase their nuclear weapon production capability? The signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty have given up their right to produce atomic weapons and have promised not to provide nuclear technology, materials and equipment to the non-member states, in return for receiving assistance from the nuclear powers.

The nuclear powers believe that they should sell reactors that are used either for research activities or for generation of electricity, to the non-nuclear governments. Therefore, the Non-Proliferation Treaty has guaranteed full access to nuclear energy technology for the countries that do not intend to produce atomic weaponry.

The huge growth in the military power of nuclear states has led to the insecurity of the world and a military gap between the north and the south.

It is no longer a secret that the amount of weapons stockpiled in the nuclear arsenals of the United States between 1970 (when the Non-Proliferation Treaty took effect) and 1975 doubled. Today, the United States possesses 31,000 atomic warheads and is producing three new warheads every day.

Among the newly developed weapons of mass destruction, warheads with high radiation particularly Norton bombs, have been designed to disable and annihilate a large portion of enemy military personnel. This is the only weapon that guarantees the annihilation of enemy military personnel inside armored tanks, no matter how many they are, in a specific region. The use of Norton warheads in artillery shells and battlefield missiles (Lancer) was fist placed in the weaponry programs of the United States in 1977-78.

It is illogical to say that horizontal expansion of atomic weapons is dangerous or say such weapons are destructive and destabilizing. The failure to control very powerful conventional arms or chemical, biological weapons and other weapons of mass destruction has resulted in a regional arms race and more bloody conflicts in the Third World.

Are the members of the nuclear club seeking to sell such weapons as a foreign policy instrument and to take control of economic resources? Or they are ready to commit their countries to honor the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Every country enjoying industrial background can build nuclear power plants. If a country wants to use nuclear energy power for generation of electricity, it does not necessarily mean that it intends to make nuclear weapons.

If we accept this assumption that having nuclear plants is tantamount to being able to produce atomic weapons, then the number of nuclear club members should rise from six to thirty. the Islamic Revolution

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