Report

Iran’s nuclear programme: benign or sinister?

9 Oct 2014
Description

This report argues that if Iran's nuclear programme was peaceful, it would have invested solely in nuclear power infrastructure, rather than creating large stockpiles of enriched uranium.

Summary

Iran was shown to have stockpiled research-grade uranium under the previous leadership of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It now claims the right to enrich uranium for its energy and research requirements, whilst stating it has no interest in developing nuclear weapons. If its nuclear programme was peaceful, however, Iran would have invested solely in nuclear power infrastructure, rather than creating large stockpiles of enriched uranium. If Iran develops nuclear weapons it will have severe implications for the countries of the Persian Gulf region and beyond.

The Iranian nuclear issue is complex and uncertain. There are broader geopolitical implications for the programme, including the growing economic ties Russia and China are developing in the region. Geographically, Iran is situated in an earthquake-prone region that does not provide the geological stability required for nuclear power-generating plants. Finally, Iran’s nuclear targets do not appear to reflect domestic energy demand or resource necessity, given its large oil and natural gas reserves.

Key points

  • Iran was revealed by the IAEA in 2002 to be enriching uranium to levels far in excess of that required for its energy generation requirements.
  • The recent Joint Plan of Action talks have resulted in Iran diluting its stockpiles of uranium that had been enriched to 20 per cent to levels more in keeping with that required for fuel use in return for a suspension of sanctions.
  • Iran’s proven reserves of oil and natural gas raise questions as to why President Rouhani wishes to develop its nuclear infrastructure.
  • Russia holds the intellectual property rights to Iran’s only nuclear power plant in Bushehr.
  • During the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s nuclear reputation was damaged by its storage of 20 per cent uranium hexafluoride in excess of the requirements of its research reactors.
Publication Details
Published year only: 
2014
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