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Thursday, 14 February 2008 15:17

By Rick Wayman, CND intern

January 2005


In the past few months, Iran’s nuclear programme has been the topic of much debate and speculation internationally. All of the Nuclear Weapons States have been involved in this debate and speculation, along with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN) and many others. US threats to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions have subsided somewhat in the past few weeks as the 'EU-3' (Germany, France, Britain) have exerted much diplomatic effort to resolve the situation. Recognising that this is a high-tension situation that changes every day, CND has released this report to reflect our position in relation to the developments up to this point.


At the root of the current issues surrounding Iran’s nuclear programme is its production of enriched uranium. Iran claims that the fuel will be used for civilian nuclear reactors, while the Bush Administration strongly suggests that the enriched uranium is being prepared for use in nuclear weapons. Iran argues that it has complied with all of its obligations as a Non-Nuclear Weapons State under the NPT, which permits peaceful uses of atomic energy. (1)

Iran’s nuclear programme – A 40-year history

In 1967, the Tehran Nuclear Research Centre (TNRC) opened with a 5-megawatt light-water research reactor supplied by the US.(2) Iran signed the NPT in 1968, and it came into force in March 1970. The NPT allows Iran “the inalienable right…to develop research, production, and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.” (3)

In 1973, the Stanford Research Institute, an influential US American group, reported that Iran would need an electrical capacity of 20,000 megawatts by 1990. To achieve this level of energy production, the Shah decided to build several nuclear reactors, enlisting the help of Kraftwerk Union, a subsidiary of Siemens, to build the first two 1200 megawatt reactors at Bushehr. (4) Construction of the first reactor began in 1974, and the second one began in 1975. Work was halted after the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Iran has worked with many different countries and companies based in those countries on its nuclear programme: (5)

United States: Supplied the first research reactor at Tehran University in 1967; Jimmy Carter and the Shah signed an agreement in 1978 for the US to supply Iran with 8 nuclear power plants, but the plans never materialised.

France: Framatome signed deals in 1974 to build two 950 mW reactors at Darkhovin and in 1977 to build two 900 mW reactors at Karun – these projects were cancelled in 1979; Accepted a loan of (US) $1 billion from the Shah in exchange for 10% ownership in the French Eurodif uranium enrichment plant, located in Pierrelatte – in 2005, Iran still lays claim to this ownership, though France disputes this.

(West) Germany: Kraftwerk Union began construction on the reactors at Bushehr in the 1970s (see above); Germany sued by Iran for $5.4 billion in 1996 for refusing to allow Kraftwerk to deliver parts for Bushehr that had been paid for in the 1980s; planned to build four additional reactors for Iran in 1978, but plans were scrapped after the 1979 Revolution; West German government negotiated on plans to dump nuclear waste in the Iranian desert.

Argentina and Spain: Argentinean corporation INVAP and Spanish corporations ENSA and ENUSA, all companies specialising in nuclear technology, entered into talks with Iran in the late 1980s to rebuild the Bushehr reactors bombed by Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war; no contract was signed.

China: Supplied four nuclear research reactors at the Esfahan Nuclear Technology Centre; reportedly signed a deal in 1990 to build a 27mW plutonium production reactor at Esfahan signed a deal in 1992 to build the reactors at Darkhovin (originally to be built by the French – see above), but the contract has yet to be fulfilled.

Iran-Russia Cooperation

Construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant, abandoned after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, was started again in cooperation with the Russians after the end of the Iran-Iraq war. The US argued that the reactors at Bushehr were unnecessary as Iran has vast supplies of oil which can be used to generate power. This led to the US suspicion that the Bushehr reactors would be used for military purposes. Russia countered this assertion by stating that the Bushehr reactors were unable to produce weapons-grade plutonium.(6) The Russians also offered to allow the US a part in building the Bushehr plant to help allay their proliferation worries relating to the plant.(7)

Enrichment of uranium was originally not supposed to take place in Iran. Russia had agreed to supply Iran with fuel and take back all Iranian spent fuel from the Bushehr plant. Disputes about the cost of this arrangement with the Russians have been ongoing.(8) In late 2002, the IAEA discovered that Iran was building a centrifuge plant at Natanz that would allow it to enrich uranium, which could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a number of nuclear weapons.(9) This revelation showed the Iranian desire not to be dependent on the Russians, or anyone else for that matter, for any stage of the nuclear cycle. This also removed some of the US pressure from the Russians regarding the Bushehr nuclear plant, although it is still the topic of some conversation between US and Russian officials.(10)

In 2003, Mohammad Khatami, the Iranian president, announced that Iran would take control of its entire fuel cycle, from mining to enriching. While this step is completely acceptable under IAEA guidelines (as long as it is declared), the possibility of Iranian control of fissile material worried the US, Israel, and European countries.(11)

Russia has trained hundreds of Iranians to work on the Bushehr plant at institutes across Russia, including the Atomic Energy University at Obninsk. According to the Russians, the information learned at these institutes will not give the Iranians the necessary knowledge to build nuclear weapons.(12) Russia insists that its cooperation with Iran is under the strict supervision of the IAEA.(13)

Iran – EU-3 Cooperation

In 2002, the EU began to seek stronger ties with Iran by entering into negotiations on economic, security, and human rights issues.(14) A year later, the EU linked these negotiations to Iran’s acceptance of a tougher inspection regime for its nuclear programme. The EU was keen to undertake a policy of “constructive engagement” with Iran, in contrast to the policy of isolation favoured by the Bush administration.(15)

In September 2003, the IAEA presented Iran with an ultimatum to prove that they did not have a nuclear weapons programme. Britain, France and Germany (now known in this context as the EU-3) made an offer of sharing peaceful nuclear technology with Iran in exchange for Iran’s cooperation with IAEA demands.(16) What was originally thought to be a last-ditch effort by the EU-3 has turned into a drawn-out negotiation session, lasting into 2005.

After much political posturing between Iran and the US, with the EU-3 trying to negotiate a settlement, Iran agreed to a temporary cessation of uranium enrichment activities in November 2004 while a permanent settlement was negotiated. Three separate working groups were set up on political and security issues, technology and cooperation, and nuclear issues. The steering committee will meet in early 2005 to discuss the conclusions of the working groups and move ahead with an agreement.(17) The EU-3 hopes to provide nuclear technology and increased economic opportunities to Iran in exchange for verifiable guarantees that Iran’s nuclear programme is only for peaceful purposes, including a rigorous inspections regime.

Iran and the NPT

Iran signed the NPT as a Non-Nuclear Weapon State (NNWS) in 1970.(18) As a NNWS, Iran is prohibited under the treaty from acquiring nuclear weapons. The NPT promotes the acquisition of nuclear power programmes in Article IV, thereby failing to prevent States from obtaining nuclear materials and components. No penalties are applicable to a State that withdraws from the treaty, as long as they provide three months notice to the UN Security Council. North Korea is the only country to withdraw from the NPT so far.(19)

Under the NPT, Iran has a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, which gives the IAEA the right to inspect nuclear facilities declared by NNWS. In 2003, Iran signed an additional protocol to this Safeguards Agreement, giving the IAEA authority to inspect additional locations within Iran. Recently, Iran agreed to allow IAEA monitoring of twenty sets of centrifuge components that were the subject of much scrutiny and suspicion.(20) For months, Iran refused to allow unconditional access to the IAEA to military installations, insisting on the rules of the treaty calling for IAEA inspections of declared nuclear facilities only. However, they recently agreed to allow inspection at Parchin military base, suspected by the US as playing a part in nuclear weapons development.(21)

Iran has signed the Additional Protocol to the NPT, which gives the IAEA authority to inspect nuclear facilities at short notice. However, Iran has not yet ratified the Additional Protocol.(22)

CND’s position

CND opposes both the use of force against Iran and any acquisition of nuclear weapons capabilities by Iran. Bellicose statements from the US and Israel have not helped to defuse the situation; on the contrary, they have increased political posturing on both sides and have proven counterproductive in resolving the issues. Further threats of force are likely to only increase the national pride of many Iranians, already provoked by continual demands outside the requirements of the NPT, making a peaceful and lasting solution even more difficult to come by. The sources of many of the US allegations against Iran relating to a nuclear weapons programme are Iranian dissidents and exiles. Given the dubious, and apparently completely false, information given to the US by Iraqi exiles about Iraq’s alleged WMD capabilities, we fully expect a more responsible and respectful position to be taken by the US in relation to Iran.

CND supports the efforts of the EU-3 to reach a mutually acceptable agreement on Iran’s enrichment of uranium and their nuclear power programme. We believe that the IAEA can serve as an effective safeguard to ensure Iran’s adherence to its obligations as a Non-Nuclear Weapons State (NNWS) under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). CND encourages all concerned parties to participate in good faith in negotiations to resolve this issue peacefully and expediently, and to support the IAEA in the work that it does.

According to the NPT, all nations have the right to a peaceful nuclear energy programme, and CND therefore respects Iran’s right to a peaceful civilian nuclear programme. We strongly urge all countries that have not signed up to the NPT to do so. This will help stabilise a region of the world where three nuclear-armed countries, Israel, Pakistan and India, have not signed the treaty. We also encourage all Nuclear Weapons States to pursue negotiations in good faith towards nuclear disarmament as required under Article VI of the NPT.

CND supports the establishment of a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East, as called for in UN Security Council Resolution 687. The presence of nuclear weapons in this region undermines the Palestine-Israel peace process, and Israel’s secretive possession of nuclear weapons provides a convenient excuse for other countries in the region to pursue the bomb. Until Israel signs and complies with the NPT, it will be difficult to fairly enforce the treaty upon other countries in the region.

CND calls for full transparency of nuclear programmes by all countries in the world, and for full international cooperation for the immediate elimination of all weapons of mass destruction.


(1) To view the complete text of the NPT, see http://www.acronym.org.uk/npt/npttext.html
(2) Sahimi, M. 2/10/2003. Iran’s Nuclear Program. Retrieved from http://www.payvand.com/news/03/oct/1015.html
(3) Non-Proliferation Treaty, Article IV. http://disarmament.un.org:8080/wmd/npt/npttext.html
(4) Sahimi, M. 2/10/2003. Iran’s Nuclear Program. Retrieved from http://www.payvand.com/news/03/oct/1015.html
(5) Ibid. Also see Federation of American Scientists. Esfahan/Isfahan Nuclear Technology Center. Retrieved from http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/iran/facility/esfahan.htm
(6) Guardian Special Report. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/flash/0,5860,981667,00.html
(7) Walsh, N. and de Luce, D. 31/5/2003. Russia Invites US to Build Iran’s Nuclear Reactor. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,12858,967681,00.html
(8) Reuters. 4/1/2005. Iran Nuclear Fuel Deal Stalled Over Fee – Russia. Retrieved from http://www.deepikaglobal.com/archives/ENG4_sub.asp?newsdate=01/05/2005&ccode=ENG4&hcode=87687
(9) Traynor, I. 18/3/2003. UN Alarm at Iran’s Nuclear Programme. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,12858,916209,00.html
(10) Iran Nuclear Deal Stalled over Fee – Russia. 4/1/2005. Retrieved from http://www.deepikaglobal.com/ENG4_sub.asp?ccode=ENG4&newscode=87687
(11) Jeffery, S. 22/11/2004. Q&A: Iran’s Nuclear Programme. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,12858,1357004,00.html
(12) Walsh, N. 16/6/2003. Russian Lessons. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,12858,978141,00.html
(13) IRNA. 4/6/2003. Russia’s Nuclear Cooperation with Iran Under Close International Supervision – Ivanov. Retrieved from http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/iran/2003/iran-030604-irna03.htm
(14) Wielaard, R. 18/6/2002. Europe to Seek Trade Pact with Iran. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,12858,893542,00.html
(15) Black, I. and Steele, J. 17/6/2003. EU Intensifies Pressure on Iran to Accept Inspections. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,12858,979065,00.html
(16) De Luce, D. 20/9/2003. Europeans Fail to End Iranian Nuclear Crisis. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,12858,1046032,00.html
(17) Paris Agreement of 15/11/2004. Retrieved from http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/2004/infcirc637.pdf
(18) ACRONYM Report No. 13, February 2000. The Non-Proliferation Treaty: Challenging Times. Retrieved from http://www.acronym.org.uk/acrorep/a13app2.htm
(19) Chaffee, D. 10 April 2003. North Korea’s Withdrawal from Non-Proliferation Treaty Official. Retrieved from http://www.wagingpeace.org/articles/2003/04/10_chaffee_korea-npt.htm(20) ElBaradei, M. Statement to the Board of Governors. 29 November 2004. Retrieved from http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Statements/2004/ebsp2004n017.html
(21) Sanger, D. 5/1/2005. Iran Agrees to Allow UN to Inspect Suspected Nuclear Site. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/05/international/middleeast/05cnd-nuke.html?oref=login
(22) Goodenough, P. 6 December 2004. Iran Says It’s Not Obliged to Give Inspectors Access to Military Sites. Retrieved from http://www.cnsnews.com/ForeignBureaus/archive/200412/FOR20041206b.html