According to The Wall Street Journal’s announcement, Moscow will start to load fuel into Tehran’s first nuclear power plant at Bushehr on Saturday, August 21. Moscow also guaranteed a 10 year supply of the fuel to the reactor.
From the moment the first drop of fuel is loaded, the plant will be considered a nuclear-energy installation as defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency. And the ayatollahs will have the potential to produce the plutonium necessary for an atomic bomb, experts say.
Additionally, “Bushehr gives Iran the pretext for needing uranium enrichment,” says Jack Spencer, The Heritage Foundation’s nuclear energy expert. According to Spencer:
Without Bushehr the ayatollahs have absolutely no reason for needing any enrichment capability. Their other reactor—the IR40 in Arak—is a heavy water reactor, which uses natural uranium. So no need for enrichment there. On the other hand, if they are looking for easier way to weaponize plutonium, then Arak is the way to go. Heavy water reactors produce far more weapons-usable plutonium. It just doesn’t make sense to use Bushehr for plutonium production. That reactor is all about uranium.
However. it also doesn’t make sense for poor and gas-rich Iran to spend tens of billions of dollars to pursue civilian nuclear power generation in the first place.
It is going to take two more months for Bushehr to become operational. The plant will run under the auspices of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) which protects the regime and provides training and support to terrorist groups.
This is a clear violation of the spirit of the recent sanctions passed against Iran in the United Nations Security Council in June of this year—sanctions passed with Russia (and China’s) support. Although Moscow carefully negotiated the Bushehr exemption clause in all U.N. sanctions, the action pokes the Obama Administration’s “reset” policy with Russia in the eye.
The Iranian clerics are using the launch of Bushehr to churn out Islamist propaganda mixed with Persian nationalism—an explosive mix in the powder keg environment of the Middle East. The move gives Tehran powerful leverage over domestic critics, as they can now claim that Western sanctions came to naught, and the future is bright.
The United States has always opposed giving Iran access to nuclear energy unless it proves that it is not pursuing a nuclear weapons program under the IAEA Additional Protocol, which includes intrusive inspections. Clearly, the ayatollahs have something to hide, as they refuse to comply. In addition, the U.S. correctly stated that as Iran obtained ample nuclear fuel from Russia, it does not need its own nuclear enrichment facilities, which can be used for enriching uranium to bomb-grade concentrations.
The IAEA has repeatedly found Iran in violation of its international non-proliferation commitments, most recently with the revelation of the hidden Qom nuclear facility. The cases of Iraq and Libya have clearly shown that it is very easy to deceive the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog if a regime is determined to do so. Simply put, Teheran’s promises to run the reactor under international supervision, combined with its history of gross violations of IEAE rules, are worth less than the dregs in a coffee cup in a Persian bazaar.
The loading of fuel into the reactor also has military implications. Once the fuel is loaded, the reactor will be virtually immune from an air strike because of the danger of radiation fallout spreading into the air and the reactor’s surroundings, unless a precision strike disables the facility while leaving the containment chamber intact.
This was a long, drawn-out affair for Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned civilian nuclear behemoth. It was contracted to work on the reactor as early as 1995, and in the past Moscow used the reactor construction to call on Iran to come clean over its nuclear weapons program, maintain its leverage over Tehran, and maintain its economic interests in Iran. Rosatom views itself as a prime player in the lucrative global nuclear market.
Yet, Moscow’s latest actions make clear that the recent reports about the deterioration of Russian-Iranian relations may be premature.
Despite President Obama’s much-hyped “reset” policy with Russia, and despite the U.S.’s far reaching concessions to Moscow, the Kremlin provided the tyrannical regime with powerful means to flaunt the U.N. sanctions and obtain plutonium for the bomb. Thus, Russia handed Iran a significant political victory