Chronology of Iran's Nuclear Activities in Past 60 Years

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Shahab Salimi

A proposal for taking advantage of the nuclear energy was offered to Iran's then monarch, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, by then US President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In fact, the United States was the first country, which encouraged Iran to achieve nuclear technology. Following Eisenhower’s famous “Atoms for Peace” initiative in 1957, the United States continued its support for Iran's nuclear program and the two countries signed a contract for cooperation in nonmilitary nuclear technology. According to that contract, Iran was to receive a few kilograms of enriched uranium for research purposes from the United States. Following the deal, the headquarters of the Institute of Nuclear Science, which was affiliated to the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) was relocated from Baghdad to Tehran.

In 1958, Iran became a member state of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its representatives took part in various meetings of the world body.

In 1959, Mohammad Reza Shah ordered a nuclear research center to be established at the University of Tehran and the United States sold a five-megawatt nuclear research reactor to Iran. The American company responsible for the deal, delivered the research reactor along with 5,545 kg of enriched uranium, and 112 grams of plutonium to Iran.

In 1965, Iran was urged to accede to the IAEA's Convention on Nuclear Safety. This issue was discussed at the legal department of Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs by Hermidas Bavand, Parviz Mahdavi and Ezzeddin Kazemi, who collectively made up the first legal nuclear team of Iran. Following necessary studies, Iran signed the Convention during the same year.

In 1967, the United States sold the first five-megawatt light water research reactor to Iran and the American Machine and Foundry (AMF) company installed and commissioned the reactor at the University of Tehran. That reactor used 93-percent enriched uranium. Before the victory of the Islamic Revolution, the United States provided Iran with about 5 kg of highly enriched uranium fuel, which was kept at a special warehouse for the spent fuel inside Tehran Research Reactor under painstaking protection and supervision of the IAEA. Up to the present day, that amount of uranium has been officially and unofficially inspected by experts and inspectors from the IAEA.

In 1968, Iran acceded to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Iranian parliament, National Consultative Assembly, ratified it in 1970.

There were many reasons behind the United States’ support for a nuclear Iran. At that time, the United States was afraid that the former Soviet Union, as flag carrier of global Communism, might launch a surprise attack through Iran's northern borders and occupy large parts of the country, thus, paving the way for the infiltration of Communism into Iran. At that time, Iran was considered an important ally to the West and a powerful obstacle to the spread of leftist ideas. Therefore, nuclearization of Iran was one of the most important measures that the United States could have taken in order to maintain the West’s main base in the region and create a deterrent belt along the southern borders of the Soviet Union to curb further spread of Communism.

On the other hand, while the US State Department was opposing a plan by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff to deploy nuclear arms to Iran, Tehran signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968, which up to that time had been signed by just a few countries. Subsequently, Iran's National Consultative Assembly ratified the treaty in 1970.

Following widespread ratification of the NPT, world countries were divided into two broad categories: those countries which possessed nuclear weapons and those countries which did not have them. According to the NPT, the nuclear-weapon states included those countries that had produced and detonated any kind of nuclear explosive device before January 1, 1967. As a result, China, France, Russia, the UK, and the United States were officially recognized as nuclear-weapon states. According to the treaty, countries possessing nuclear weapons should not help other countries, either directly or indirectly, to obtain such weapons. On the other hand, non-nuclear-weapon states were committed to not making any effort to obtain nuclear weapons. Of course, according to Article 4 of the treaty, “All the Parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate … the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Parties to the Treaty in a position to do so shall also cooperate in contributing … to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the territories of non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty.” Some 10 years after the United States signed its nuclear deal with Iran, it was further extended by Washington for another ten years.

In 1974, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran was established and Dr. Akbar E’temad, a graduate of physics, was appointed as the head of this organization. This organization was under direct supervision of the Iranian monarch. During the same year, Iran granted a loan amounting to one billion dollars to the French Nuclear Energy Commissariat (Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique). The loan was used to build a uranium enrichment plant in Tricastin region of France, which belonged to Eurodif consortium, also known as European Gaseous Diffusion Uranium Enrichment Consortium. In return, Iran owned 10 percent of the plant’s stocks.

Later on, the Shah and Akbar E’temad made a trip to Paris. During the visit, they signed agreements with Paris for the construction of five 1,000-MW nuclear power plants. France was also committed to deliver necessary amount of uranium to Iran and establish a nuclear research center in the country. In the meantime, Iran signed another contract with Germany’s Kraftwerk Union to purchase two pressurized water reactors capable of producing 1,200 MW of electricity, which were supposed to be built in southern Iranian city of Bushehr. At the same time, another agreement was signed with the French Framatom company for the purchase of two 900-MW nuclear power plants to be installed in the southern Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas. According to those contracts, the German and French companies were committed to deliver necessary enriched uranium to Iran and meet the country’s needs for the next 10 years.

In 1975, a German group representing Kraftwerk Union started to build the nuclear power plant in Bushehr according to an agreement previously signed between the two countries. The project was worth a total of 7.8 billion dollars and its final contract was signed in 1976 for the construction of two light water pressurized reactors each with a capacity of 1,296 MW. Further contracts were also signed for the delivery of 200,000 cubic meters of pure water as well as necessary fuel for the power plant. A year later, France agreed to build two nuclear power plants with a capacity of 900 MW for Iran at the cost of 2 billion dollars.

The power plants were expected to be built in Darkhoein region of Iran close to the banks of Karoun River, and near the city of Ahvaz, both in Iran's Khuzestan Province. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran paid French companies of Framatom, Spie batignolles, and Alstom Atlantic for the construction of the power plant in Darkhoein.

Following the victory of the Islamic Revolution and the inception of the imposed war with Iraq, Iran's nuclear activities, which had been a major focus of attention in the past decade, came to a standstill. Many nuclear projects were halted and due to many factors, including military attacks, economic and industrial sanctions as well as uncalculated decisions, the downturn in Iran's nuclear activities continued.

Up to the Islamic Revolution’s victory in February 1979, construction of the first reactor of Bushehr nuclear power plant had progressed 85 percent physically and construction of its second reactor had also progressed 65 percent. Following the Islamic Revolution, the interim government headed by Mehdi Bazargan, appointed Dr. Fereidoun, one of the members of Bazargan’s Freedom Movement, as head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Later on, construction of Bushehr nuclear power plant, which was the biggest nuclear project in the Middle East at its time, and many other parts of Iran's nuclear activities were stopped. In the height of the war with Iraq and due to extreme shortage of power resources in the country, Iran approached Spain and Japan for the construction of the nuclear power plant in Bushehr. But due to pressure from the United States, those countries did not accept to work with Iran.

Following the end of the imposed war, the Iranian government implemented many plans to achieve nuclear technology and produce nuclear fuel and energy.

A contract was then signed between Iran and Russia for the completion and commissioning of Bushehr nuclear power plant, development and completion of nuclear fuel facility in the central city of Isfahan, and construction of a uranium enrichment site near the central city of Natanz. These were but a few steps that Iran took to achieve nuclear energy and complete the nuclear fuel cycle during those years.

After election of George W. Bush as the United States president, Washington made extensive efforts to totally shut down Iran's nuclear activities. As a result of those efforts and pressure exerted by Israel and some European countries through the IAEA and the United Nations, Iran's nuclear case was taken up by the IAEA on an urgent basis. Such opposition to Iran's nuclear program has continued up to the present time.

Source: Jamonline.IR
ٰٰTranslated By: Iran Review.Org

Photo Credit: Wikipedia, Kayhan, Press TV, AEOI, Associated Press

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