Issue 8, March 2009
Iran’s nuclear energy program was begun under the Shah, with technology purchased from the US. In 1968, along with 185 other countries, Iran signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which established guidelines for the use of nuclear materials. In simple terms, the NPT draws a red line between civilian (peaceful) and military (weapons) applications of atomic technology.
Iran’s nuclear energy program continued after the Revolution of 1979, accelerating during the tenure of President Khatami in the 1990s. The Islamic Republic was forthright in its pursuit of peaceful applications of the technology, citing the need for nuclear energy for its growing population so that it could minimize domestic consumption of its export cash cow: oil. Iran accepted international monitoring as laid out in the NPT and was provided with nuclear materials through China and Russia to deter it from seeking to master the fuel cycle process. (Once a nation can manufacture its own nuclear fuels, through the enrichment of uranium or the production of plutonium, it can develop weapons capabilities.)