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Iran Nuclear Issues: Different Views

Iran says that nuclear power is necessary for a booming population and rapidly- industrializing nation. Iran insists that nuclear power is necessary for a booming population and rapidly-industrializing nation. It points to the fact that Iran’s population has more than doubled in 20 years, the country regularly imports gasoline and electricity, and that burning fossil fuel in large amounts severely harms Iran’s environment. Additionally, Iran wishes to diversify its sources of energy. Iran’s oil reserves are currently estimated at 133 billion barrels (21,100,000,000 m3), at a current pumping rate of 1.5-1.8 billion barrels per year

This is only enough oil to last the next 74-89 years assuming pumping rates are steady and additional reserves are not found. In taking a stance that the Shah expressed decades ago, Iranians feel its valuable oil should be used for high-value products, not simple electricity generation. “Petroleum is a noble material, much too valuable to burn... We envision producing, as soon as possible, 23000 megawatts of electricity using nuclear plants,” the Shah had previously said. Iran also faces financial constraints, and claims that developing the excess capacity in its oil industry would cost it $40 billion, let alone pay for the power plants. Roger Stern from Johns Hopkins University partially concurred with this view, projecting that due to “energy subsidies, hostility to foreign investment, and inefficiencies of its [Iranian] state-planned economy”, Iranian oil exports would vanish by 2014—2015, although he notes that this outcome has “no relation to ‘peak oil.” Earlier, the Gerald Ford Administration had arrived at a similar assessment, and independent studies conducted by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the British Parliament and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences previously confirmed that Iran has a valid economic basis for its nuclear energy program

Dr. William Beeman, Brown University’s Middle East Studies program professor, who spent years in Iran, says that the Iranian nuclear issue is a unified point of their political discussion:
‘The Iranian side of the discourse is that they want to be known and seen as a modern, developing state with a modern, developing industrial base. The history of relations between Iran and the West for the last hundred years has included Iran’s developing various kinds of industrial and technological advances to prove to themselves--and to attempt to prove to the world--that they are, in fact, that kind of country.”

After the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of its plans to restart its nuclear program using indigenously - made nuclear fuel, and in 1983 the IAEA even planned to provide assistance to Iran under its Technical Assistance Program to produce enriched uranium. An IAEA report stated clearly that its aim was to “contribute to the formation of local expertise and manpower needed to sustain an ambitious program in the field of nuclear power reactor technology and fuel cycle technology”. However, the IAEA was forced to terminate the program under U.S. pressure.

Iran also believes it has a legal right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a right which in 2005 the U.S. and the EU-3 began to assert had been forfeited by a clandestine nuclear program that came to light in 2002. In fact, Iran’s enrichment program was openly discussed on national radio, and IAEA inspectors had even visited Iran’s uranium mines as early as 1992, a decade before the public exposure of the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. Iranian politicians compare its treatment as a signatory to the NPT with three nuclear-armed nations that have not signed the NPT: Israel, India, and Pakistan. Each of these nations developed an indigenous nuclear weapons capability: Israel by 1968, India by 1974, and Pakistan by 1990. There is no provision in the Non-Proliferation Treaty or the IAEA Statute that allows for the forfeiture of the “inalienable right” to nuclear technology.

The Iranian authorities assert that they cannot simply trust the United States or Europe to provide Iran with nuclear energy fuel, and point to a long series of agreements, contracts and treaty obligations which were not fulfilled. Developing nations say they don’t want to give up their rights to uranium enrichment and don’t trust the United States or other nuclear countries to be consistent suppliers of the nuclear material they would need to run their power plants.

Determination to continue the nuclear program and retaliate against any Western attack is strong in Iran. Hassan Abbasi, director of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps think tank, Doctrinal Analysis Center for Security without Borders (Markaz-e barresiha -ye doktrinyal-e amniyat bedun marz,) has announced that “approximately 40,000 Iranian estesh-hadiyun (martyrdom-seekers)” are ready to carry out suicide operations against ‘twenty-nine identified Western targets,” should the U.S. military hit Iranian nuclear installations.

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