Right Wing Nut House


Iran’s Nuclear Program Revived

Filed under: FrontPage.Com, Government, Iran, War on Terror — Rick Moran @ 7:36 am

My latest column at FrontPage.com looks at the announcement made by the Iranian government yesterday that the reactor at Bushehr has become “operational.” While most analysts agree there is no “immediate” danger from the plant as far as contributing to the Iranian’s ability to make a bomb, there are legitimate concerns about what might occur down the road.

The question with regards to how much of a threat the reactor poses has always been based on the reliability of the current agreements between the Iranian and Russian governments. Once up and running at full power, the plant will produce between 100 and 300 kilograms of plutonium a year – a by-product of spent fuel rods. Since as little as 6 kgs of plutonium is needed to build a bomb, the temptation for the Iranians to cheat will be great.

Whether they could get away with it is the nub of the matter. The Iranians have agreed that Moscow will supply Bushehr’s fuel rods and remove the spent fuel for shipment back to Russia where it will be de-processed. It will be very difficult to divert plutonium elsewhere as long as the Russians don’t deliberately look the other way. Also, the IAEA will be inspecting the plant regularly for safety concerns — a regime that includes keeping track of the fuel cycle at the plant.

This is the logic behind Bushehr being no “immediate” threat. But there are also legitimate concerns about Iran’s intentions with regard to the plant, and even some suspicion about Russia’s motives in selling and reprocessing the fuel rods.

Iran has threatened to withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) several times. If they ever made good on those threats, activity at Bushehr would come under increased scrutiny. Within a few years, Iran will be technically capable of creating their own fuel rods, thus obviating the need for Moscow to supply them and consequently, removing the necessity for the Russians to remove them for reprocessing. With Iran in complete control of the nuclear fuel cycle, and no inspectors looking over their shoulder, the chance that the Iranians will take advantage of the situation is too great to ignore.

The question of not trusting the Russians to hold up their end of the deal and allow Iran to cheat is more a matter of politics as it is one of intent. Why would Russia do it? To make life miserable for the US and the West? The risk to Russia would seem to outweigh any value in allowing the Iranians to keep some of the plutonium from the spent fuel rods. No doubt Russia would be considered culpable if the Iranians were to use a plutonium bomb on Israel or the West. There would be unknown, but probably severe consequences from the rest of the world if such an event were to occur.

Another possible threat from Bushehr comes from contacts the Iranians may develop in using Russian technicians to help run the plant. It’s no secret among proliferation experts that Russian nuclear workers are prime targets of nuclear smugglers. Also, the Russians have a history of not keeping good track of their nuclear materials. Bought off nuclear workers might assist the Iranians in keeping some of the plant’s plutonium, and sloppy record keeping by Russia might never discover the discrepancies.

That last scenario is admittedly a long shot. But when discussing nuclear weapons, any possibility, no matter how remote, must be entertained. There is no margin for error — especially when considering Iran’s intent to develop a bomb.

This is more a symbolic victory for the Iranians than anything substantial. They finally got the project working despite enormous pressure from the west. We’ll see if the Russians hold up their end of the bargain, although allowing the Iranians to cheat would not be to their advantage.

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