IRAN'S “LEGAL” PATHS TO THE BOMB
Recent events have reinforced the persistent suspicion that Iran seeks nuclear weapons. That suspicion is fed by Iran's drive to obtain all aspects of nuclear power technology, whether economically justified or not. Iran's strong emphasis on those technologies that would permit production of nuclear explosives—plutonium and highly enriched uranium—is especially worrisome. So is Iran's resistance to accepting more effective international inspections and, even more so, its likely violation of its current reporting obligations.
Iran's rationale for pursuing these technologies is that they would support the operation of its nuclear power reactors for generating electricity. So far, Iran has only one Russian-supplied unit, Bushehr 1, under construction. But it looks more and more as if the country— that is to say, the directorate of the nuclear program—has more in mind than generating electricity. Consider, for example, the issue of plutonium. The Bushehr reactor, like any uranium-fueled power reactor, would produce militarily-significant amounts of plutonium in its fuel during operation. Under U.S. pressure to make sure the plutonium from Bushehr did not end up in bombs, the Russians have agreed to take back the reactor's radioactive spent fuel, 1 percent of which would produce plutonium during the reactor's operation. Most power reactor operators are delighted to get rid of their spent fuel. The contained plutonium has no economic value. Iran, however, has made it clear that it intends to pursue reprocessing technology to separate the plutonium from spent fuel, which raises questions about the future of that Bushehr product.
As was revealed in August 2002 by an opposition group, Iran is also building a heavy water plant at Arak. 1 Iran has since informed