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As of January 2009, this site is definitely closed, but you can follow Safa Haeri on his new blog: DAMAVAND at

Why the Nuclear Programme Undermines Iran's Independence

Published Friday, March 21, 2008

London ( Al Sharq al Awsat)        "Whatever happens, grin and declare victory!" This is the advice given by "Yalanchi Pahlevan", a character in Iranian folklore, to anyone with heroic ambitions but lacking the wherewithal to achieve them. A puny shrimp of a man, "Yalanchi Pahlevan" imitates big muscular fellows in picking fights with toughs several times his size. When, inevitably, he is thrown like a feather, he just gets up, beats his chest and declares victory.

Islamic Republic President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be wrong to imitate the "Yalanchi" by describing the latest United Nations' resolution as another "great victory" for his administration.

The nuclear programme will make Iran dependent on the outside world for its energy needs as never before.

Ahmadinejad tries to justify his confrontational approach to the issue in the name of "independence." He tells Iranians that they ought to suffer in order to achieve "energy independence" by developing a full nuclear cycle.

However, the truth is that the controversial nuclear programme, which the UN believes is aimed at bomb making not just producing electricity, has had the opposite effect so far.

The latest Security Council resolution imposes at least two significant restrictions on Iran's independence.

First, it makes it mandatory for UN members to stop and search all ships and aircraft carrying goods to Iran under the pretext that these might be of dual use nature.

The spectacle of the US and/or allied navies stopping and searching Iran-bound ships at the entrance to the Gulf of Oman would certainly amount to a restriction of Iranian independence. The same would be true of Iran-bound and/or Iran-owned aircraft anywhere in the world.

Secondly, virtually the whole of Iranian trade could be brought under international control, much like what happened to Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

The new resolution demands that UN members verify trade with Iran to prevent it from acquiring dual-purpose goods and services. Once a monitoring mechanism is in place, the measure could slow down , if not actually reduce, trade with Iran as every transaction would have to be vetted by the ministries of defence and foreign affairs in the countries concerned. Even if some countries decide to cheat, they would still have to observe certain procedures, which could mean a costly bureaucratic nightmare.

The conventional wisdom is that the Islamic Republic has prepared itself for such developments by stockpiling essential goods for the next three years, at the end of which it might achieve the capacity to make a bomb.

However, let us return to Ahmadinejad's central claim that uranium enrichment, which the UN wants stopped, ensures Iran's energy independence.

The fanatic Iranian President aims at entering Iran into the so-called international Atomic Club.

In fact, the opposite is the case.

The nuclear programme will make Iran dependent on the outside world for its energy needs as never before.

The first form of dependence concerns the building of nuclear power stations. Since the 1970s, Iran has had the technology and the skilled labour to build hydroelectric and oil or natural gas-fueled power stations. However, it has absolutely no capacity for building, let alone designing, nuclear power stations.

The only way it can achieve such a capacity is through years of cooperation with one or more of the older industrial nations.

This is what the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have been offering Tehran since 2006 only to face total rejection by Ahmadinejad.

For the time being Russia is trying to complete Iran's only nuclear power station, designed and initially half-built by Germans. However, there is no guarantee that Russia, or anyone else, would be prepared to build any other nuclear plants in Iran before it sorts out its dispute with the UN.

The second form of dependence stems from the fact that the enriched uranium needed for operating Iran's only nuclear power plant, located on the Bushehr Peninsula, must conform to codes developed and fixed by Russia. The uranium Iran is enriching cannot be used at Bushehr. This means that Russia could shut down the Iranian plant whenever it so wishes. How is that for independence?

The third form of dependence stems from the fact that Iran's uranium ore deposits, located close to the Lut desert, and could provide fuel for two or three power plants for less than a decade.

This means that even if Iran were able to design and build its own nuclear power plants, it would still be dependent on imports of uranium ore to ensure their fuel beyond the first 10 years. (The average life of a nuclear power plant is 40 years.) In other words, Iran has enough ore with which to make 100 or so bombs, but not enough to provide fuel for two or three medium-sizes nuclear power plants.

The fourth form of dependence Iran would experience is related to its inability to handle spent fuel from nuclear power plants. At present only six countries have the technology to reprocess those substances. Iran would depend on their goodwill to get rid of the spent fuel from its putative nuclear power plants. What to do with spent nuclear fuel is one of the biggest challenges facing countries that use this form of energy. And, despite much research into ideas such as firing the spent fuel into the space with specially designed rockets, there is as yet no satisfactory solution.

Finally, Iran would face a fifth form of dependence.

Iran has enough ore with which to make 100 or so bombs, but not enough to provide fuel for two or three medium-sizes nuclear power plants.

Nuclear power plants have to be de-commissioned and mothballed after three or four decades but remain dangerous for several centuries. As a British government study showed last year, de-commissioning and mothballing a nuclear plant is costlier than building one. Managing the environmental effects of de-commissioned nuclear power plants is also a costly process at present mastered by six or seven nations only.

President Ahmadinejad is leading Iran into a potentially dangerous confrontation with the UN over an issue that has more to do with hubris and misguided radicalism than Iran's national interest. The nuclear programme, even in its peaceful form, will make Iran more dependent, not less, on the outside world.

Iran has enough oil and natural gas to meet its energy needs for another five centuries. It also has the scientific and technical capacity to build hydroelectric, solar and wind-propelled power plants. It does not need nuclear power, a form of energy for which Iran lacks the raw material, scientific base, and technical skill to design and operate without outside assistance.

The nuclear adventure of the Tehran leadership is a threat to Iran's independence and, because it may be used as a pretext for war, undermines the nation's security. Waving a fist and shouting " victory" is a cat that one can walk only up to a point, as Saddam's experience has shown. Even " Yalanchi Pahlevan" would have had the wisdom to walk that cat back before it was too late. ENDS IRAN NUCLEAR 21308

Editor's note: Mr. Amir Taheri is a veteran Iranian journalist, political commentator and analyst, covering for many international media. This article was published on 7 March by the influential pan Arab newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat, based in London. Highlights are by IPS



7 comment(s) on this page. Add your own comment below.

Saturday, March 22, 2008 17:28 [ 1 ]

As an Iranian who cares about his homeland I am used to surf the internet for any news from Iran. I have read many articles posted by Mr. Taheri and I know him as an exiled Iranian who was the editor of Keyahn newspaper during Pahlavi’s dictatorship era. I found his articles very bias and untrue. Just remember his article about Jews dress code in Iran which many politicians in west rushed to comment about it. But at end of the day they found the news was totally a lie and they became embarrassed. Of course with Mr. .Taheri’s past and background one should give him the right to be angry about Iranian nation. Regarding his article once again he definitely is wrong. I think nuclear technology can bring Iran peace, security and independency. If you just look at countries that oppose Iranian nuclear program you will be able judge about the issue. Those country with thousands nuclear war heads, those country with reputation of using nuclear bombs, those country with criminal records against humanity are not in a position to preach others about morality and peace. I believe Iran as a great civilization and peace-seeking nation must have every kind of advance technology including nuclear one and in order to protect her natural resources and security even she should have nuclear war head to deter her enemies, just look at map and see how Iranians have been surrounded by nuclear states including their arch enemy US. I think world , instead of Iran, should focus on west especially it’s puppet or let’s say it’s military base , Israeli, to disarm for the sake of humanity and peace.

Saturday, March 22, 2008 19:02 [ 2 ]

Iran and Nuclear Fuel Cycle

Some of our scientists in the United States after detonation of first nuclear bomb had suggested an international management agency to control mining and milling of uranium, enrichment process, fuel fabrication, and waste management of spent fuel. They suggested that the procedure for management and inspection must not be subject to veto power by any nation. An international management of fuel production, they indicated would stop future nuclear arm competition.

Presidents Truman and Eisenhower did not appreciate the concept of an international management for nuclear fuel cycle. Stalin shortly after the first nuclear bomb test in Alamogordo, New Mexico, started the Soviet Union nuclear bomb development. We and Soviet Russia both developed shortly after enhanced nuclear bombs (hydrogen bomb). Both nations recognized that a nuclear war would destroy both nations unlike all the other wars.

The United States feared Hitler may first develop nuclear bomb during the World War II; this fear lead to creation of Manhattan Project and development of nuclear bombs. The bombs and use on Japan changed the balance of power. The power, US did not want to share with anyone including her own allies.

Russia (US threat), China (Russia and US threat), India (Chinese threat) and Pakistan (Indian threat) developed their nuclear bomb to reduce the threat of nuclear bomb by their adversaries. Israel developed nuclear bomb to decrease threats from her Arabic neighbors.

To limit further spread of nuclear bombs, the United Nations non-proliferation treaty (NTP), July 1, 1968 was started; 189 nations are member of this treaty. NPT, the treaty is nevertheless sometimes interpreted as having three pillars: non-proliferation, disarmament, and the right to peacefully use nuclear technology.

The objective of non-proliferation act is to stop diversion of nuclear materials for making bomb. However, this rule does not apply to US, Russia, England, France, China, India, Israel, and Pakistan; the nations who already have nuclear bombs. These nations India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea, are not member of non-proliferation treaty, thus they are not subject to its requirements. The procedure for non-proliferation management was not intended to interfere with the rights of nations to develop fuel cycle for non-military purposes. IAEA has the authority to inspect fuel cycle activities of each nation to show compliance with the non-proliferation requirements.

Iran has been developing nuclear fuel cycle for electric power generation. Israel and the United States had indicated that the knowledge of the nuclear fuel cycle will allow Iran in the future to develop ability to produce nuclear bomb. They demand Iran must stop development of her fuel cycle activities. Iran has already acquired the knowledge.

Iran justifiably would not intend to abrogate her rights for development of nuclear fuel cycle. Iran had suggested an international joint operation of her nuclear fuel cycle to allay the fear of Israel and the United States. Iran is open to other nations joining her nuclear fuel cycle program. By participation of other nations and unannounced IAEA inspection, Iran would not be able to divert nuclear materials. It is imperative we accept the invitation; it is face saving for Iran and those who would demand a non-military application for her nuclear fuel program.

This joint multi-nations mode of nuclear fuel cycle production may be emulated by other aggregates of nations. It is a first step to a full international management of all fuel production, use, and waste management.

Please read more:

rivniz bibargan
Saturday, March 22, 2008 22:12 [ 3 ]

The article clearly shows that Iran will become depndent on the outside world. The Islamic Republic and its apologists have no arguments except personal attacks against their critics. Bibargan

Sunday, March 23, 2008 02:50 [ 4 ]

Since when has Mr. Taheri, who is a traitor former Iranian, sold out to the Neo-Cons, cared about Iranian independence? His article is such a mess of inaccuracies and falsehoods, which would take a longer article to correct fully.

But, for starters, the latest Security Council Resolution does not authorise the interception of Iran-bound cargo on the high seas and only calls for extra vigilance in checking the cargo of Iran Air and the Iran Shipping Lines, if there are suspicions that nuclear material is being shipped and WHILE AT THEIR OWN AIR OR SEA-PORTS. Read the resolution that you write about Mr. Taheri, but you have never cared much for truth anyway. Secondly, on the question of Iran's uranium reserves, read the IAEA country report, which states that Iran has enough uranium ore to sustain a viable nuclear power industry.

Friday, March 28, 2008 22:09 [ 5 ]

Beware !

Building a nuclear power plant in a nation is akin to setting a nuclear time bomb !

Bushehr = abomination that makes desolate !

Saturday, March 29, 2008 19:53 [ 6 ]

However, Iran-particularly its energy sector-has been far from independent for nearly a century. All of Ahmadinejad's rhetoric about independence forgets the fact that his country is very much dependent other countries to buy Iranian oil; the revenues of which constitute 65% of its government budget and allow them to engage in all of Ahmadinejad and the Majlis pet projects.

Even the natural gas used domestically for electricity generation already requires massive foreign investment. And if Iran ever actually becomes a net exporter of natural gas, it will rely on imported LNG technology for those exports as well.

Just as it would be dependent on imported technology and uranium for nuclear power generation, Iran's energy sector has long been far from independent. This is not a bad thing. Ahmadinejad just needs to realize that nuclear power, even if for legitimate purposes, will not solve Iran's energy problems; which stem from bad policies, not its choice of primary energy source.

neema t
Thursday, April 10, 2008 21:19 [ 7 ]


I would like to direct the attention of all individuals to the ad for John Mcain at the corner of the page. Please remember that this is the same man who sings: "bomb, bomb, Iran" and now he gets to advertise on an Iranian website. Really classy guys.

Second, This article is garbage, the author is a traitor that should have his citizenship revoked by the Iranian Government and should be hauled into a court of law for defamation of an entire nation. I feel proud to be an Iranian when I read such great feedback postings. What we need are more Iranians to step up and say if nuclear energy is so bad, than why do the great nations of the world have it and fight so fiercely to prevent others from getting it?

Enough Said.

Comments on this page are closed.

As of January 2009, this site is definitely closed, but you can follow Safa Haeri on his new blog: DAMAVAND at

nuclear plant-2
Nuclear industry might create more problems for Iran than the leaders of the Islamic Republic thinks.

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