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Iran has many nuclear achievements, despite US sanctions

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Vienna talks on JCPOA to resume on 29th of November 2021. (File Photo)

Iran has ascended from ‘Observer State’ to full member status at the UN Scientific Committee on Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). The committee, which was set up in 1955, is tasked with providing information on occupational, medical and naturally occurring radiation and the associated health risks of each. The importance of the work is a testament to Iran’s civilian nuclear capability. 

It’s a capability Iran acquired in spite of sanction and sabotage at each critical turning point making it one of the 8 countries with a full nuclear fuel cycle, without foreign help.

The usual sabotage suspects, America and Israel, aren’t pleased. But Iran has weathered it all and now has indigenized nuclear facilities and abilities

Iran can complete the nuclear fuel cycle from exploration, extraction, conversion, enrichment, fuel production to waste management, as well as mastering various types of lasers and quantum technology.

Taking a closer look at the world, you’ll realize that countries aren’t usually involved in all the aspects of nuclear technology.

France, for example, is solely focused on enrichment Namibia on mining, another nation on fuel production, and so on. That is, the work is shared among them.

There have been only three countries that have done the whole process by themselves, namely the United States, China, and Russia in the days of the former Soviet Union.

Now that Iran wants to start work on peaceful nuclear energy and have reactors, it should have free access to any of those matters. That’s why it attempted to complete the fuel cycle by itself.

Mahmoud Reza Aghamiri, Dean of Nuclear Engineering Faculty, Shahid Beheshti University

Even Iran’s full membership to UNSCEAR faced stiff opposition from Israel and the US and doesn’t quite match their show of suspicion towards Iran’s nuclear programme because full membership will mean Iran can participate in peaceful nuclear activities and services on the global scene, rather than on just a national scale.

 Iran will be one of four recent additions, bringing the UNSCEAR list up to 31 full member-states.

Iran has always wanted to become a member of the committee and has had the qualifications, too. Also, it may be exposed to radiation because of Israel’s adventures.

We’re not exposed at the moment, but there’s always the potential danger. Therefore, Iran’s cooperation on the matter can both help develop Iran’s scientific knowledge and also result in international cooperation to prevent nuclear radiation anywhere in the world.

The US and Israel have had no valid argument for their opposition to Iran’s membership in the committee. This, unfortunately, has been in line with their opposition to the advancement of science [in Iran].

Hassan Beheshtipour, Analyst, Nuclear Issues

Iran’s Permanent Ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht e Ravanchi, commented on the significance of the committee and the valuable contribution Iran would make to it.

Tehran would help expand knowledge and understanding of the levels, effects and risks of exposure to ionizing radiation. It could help in the training of personnel and protecting public and environmental health against the harmful effects of atomic radiation.

Iran has been invited to introduce a nuclear scientist to participate in the UNSCEAR meetings.

There are three natural radiation zones in Iran where uranium is located near the surface of the ground and Radon gas has the highest concentration compared to anywhere else in the world.

In some areas where there are hot springs, there’s a high concentration of radon gas too. We announced in 1990 that we have the necessary standards for Radon gas. The work kicked off and the IAEA held a conference in the northern city of Ramsar.

We expected them to start their work sooner because of Iran’s capabilities so we could become a member of the standards-setting board that determines the scales, units, and other technical nuclear matters.

Fortunately, this has been done now, which is a positive development.

Mahmoud Reza Aghamiri, Dean of Nuclear Engineering Faculty, Shahid Beheshti University

According to Mr Takht e Ravanchi, “… with the rapid increase in use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes in many areas, including power production, health, agriculture, bio-technology, pharmacology and industry, the Committee’s role is becoming increasingly imperative”.

Some ask what good a nuclear programme is to Iran when it has only meant sanctions and further economic hardship for the masses.

Some people would ask: why go after nuclear energy when we already have oil and gas?

But if the argument was [sic] true, the Shah also had oil and gas but why did the West provide him with nuclear energy?

Rest assured that nuclear energy, if done right, is one of the cleanest and most economical energies.

The United Arab Emirates is one of the world’s biggest producers of oil and gas, but it already has built a reactor and has signed a contract with South Korea for three more. So has Saudi Arabia.

Hassan Beheshtipour, Analyst, Nuclear Issues

Iran unveiled 133 new nuclear achievements to mark the 15th anniversary of the National Nuclear Technology Day, 9th April.

It injected uranium hexafluoride gas into a pilot cascade of 164 new generation IR-6 centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment facility. Mechanical testing of IR-9 centrifuges also began as this country launched an assembly line for their production.

IR-6 centrifuges are known to be 10 times more efficient than the previous cascade, while the IR-9 centrifuge is 50-60 times more efficient.

Uranium enrichment requires the most complicated technologies to both prevent vibrations and increase the centrifuges’ speed and power.

Imagine something spinning at 60-thousand rotations per minute, that’s one-thousand rotations per second. The slightest vibration can result in an explosion and damage. The technology must work very accurately to be able to be used.

Iran can ramp up its enrichment purity fast if and when it wills.

Mahmoud Reza Aghamiri, Dean of Nuclear Engineering Faculty, Shahid Beheshti University

Whatever the purpose of Iran’s nuclear drive, Israel is not in a position to point the finger. Israel has not adhered to the rules and regulations prohibiting the production, development and stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction, and its conventional arsenal.

Also, Israel displays a threatening temperament against world peace and security, not to mention regional stability, whereas Iran’s projects and products speak for themselves.

Some other key nuclear projects and products unveiled at the Iranian exhibition included the second phase of industrial plants producing deuterated compounds in Khandab in Arak, which are for emergency care for burns using radiation therapy; a number of centrifuge machines used by the Blood Transfusion Organization of Iran; and 110 isotope-based biomolecules used in neonatal screening kits.

Also unveiled was a device for online metering of uranium hexafluoride purity, and four new radiopharmaceuticals.

Iran’s success in the field of making medicine and isotopes to treat cancer patients in the past few years has been remarkable.

Iran has produced several radiopharmaceuticals that I don’t recall all their names, but there’s a technical expert department on that here.

Iran has also continued its studies on making uranium metal. Iran wants to make uranium metal to improve the fuel at the Tehran reactor.

The west’s propaganda claims Iran’s doing so to make a bomb, but uranium metal has different uses.

Hassan Beheshtipour, Analyst, Nuclear Issues

Iranian nuclear applications

Nuclear science doesn’t have to equate to an atom bomb of the kind America dumped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the 1940s.

 Nor does it have to mean lining up nuclear warheads, of which Israel is known to have hundreds.

Nuclear science has scientific humanitarian applications which Iran’s upgraded UNSCEAR membership would enhance.

Medically it can be used for diagnosis by PET devices and for treatment by radiotherapy, radioisotope therapy or even iodine therapy (a method for treating hyperthyroidism).

Iranians are even making important laboratory tools such as the Cyclotron.

Iran built a factory in 2003 to make heavy water for the Arak reactor. The factory is still active and produces heavy water under the supervision of the IAEA.

One of the uses for heavy water is in nuclear reactors that work with natural uranium and don’t need any enrichment.

The Arak reactor, with a 40-megawatt capacity, will be making medicinal radioisotopes. It’s currently still under construction.

Tehran is still doing work to complete the project by itself.

Hassan Beheshtipour, Analyst, Nuclear Issues

The West criticizes Iranian production of uranium metal, meanwhile, former AEOI head, Ali Akbar Salehi, explained that the Tehran research reactor uses old fuel “and we must look for a new fuel that is at the forefront of knowledge”.

"We produced a sample of uranium silica alloy and, fortunately, it was of high purity and we will use this fuel for the Tehran reactor in the future."

Interestingly, Iran can design modern fuel itself, without the need for reverse engineering.

Iranian nuclear facilities

We have the Bonab Atomic Energy Research Center, which conducts research on irradiation and other agricultural issues.

Then there is the Bushehr Nuclear facility which has two partially completed nuclear power reactors (1,000 MW).

Also the Natanz Enrichment Plant, a Uranium enrichment facility which was sabotaged quite recently.

Last on the list is the Isfahan Nuclear Fuel Research and Production Center, Iran's largest nuclear research center, where about 3,000 scientists and technicians work.

To keep the Natanz center running, we need experts in electronics, computer science, chemistry, physics, physical chemistry, and many other sciences required to run the Natanz complex with computers.

This will help advance knowledge and science in chemistry, physics, IT, electronics, and other fields that I don’t have the expertise to mention.

Hassan Beheshtipour, Analyst, Nuclear Issues

To maintain the program and ensure its progress, in keeping with the latest developments, education can never stop.

Iran has weathered many instances of sabotage by belligerent powers and their mercenaries.

Talks between Iran and the US are not friendly, at least not on the US side.

A common “coincidence”, if you can call it that, is the sabotage of Iran’s nuclear programme and the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists by US ally, Israel, almost every time Iran and the West are about to come to an understanding.

The 7th round of the critical JCPOA Vienna talks are scheduled for November the 29th. Iran’s acceptance as a full member to the UNSCEAR, is bound to be subject to objection by US ally, Israel.

The Westerners have attempted to block our progress on three occasions so far. The first was in 2003 when they asked us to suspend our work to negotiate.

We had made considerable progress in a short period back then, but to prove our goodwill and let them verify that we’re not after nuclear weapons and that our goal is peaceful, we agreed to the suspension.

The suspensions were the first incident that hurt our nuclear program.

The Westerners, not including the US at the time, tried to stop us, but two years later we started our work again. They realized that they couldn’t stop us, and then came the assassinations.

Mahmoud Reza Aghamiri, Dean of Nuclear Engineering Faculty, Shahid Beheshti University

The April round of the Vienna talks came just three days a key Iranian nuclear plant near Natanz was sabotaged, an act of nuclear terrorism as Iran put it.

An explosion cut off electricity to the site damaging an unknown number of centrifuges, causing them to spin out of control.

It is needless to say that the sanctions have been in place since the beginning of the Islamic revolution in 1979 when Iranians decided to be independent and not to be despicably submissive to the West any more.

Since that day, they have been imposing different sanctions, under different pretexts, and if we didn’t have nuclear program, they would definitely find another excuse to justify their mean sanctions [sic].

They want us to be entirely dependent so that we become completely obedient to them. They could not tolerate our missile program too because they know it strengthens our authority and defense power.

Hossein Abniki , Fmr. Head, Development Center of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran

The Vienna talks were meant to get the US to lift sanctions against Iran as Washington was obligated to do so under the JCPOA.

But former President Trump, contrary to all international norms, unilaterally exited that deal in an effort to weaken Iran’s nuclear programme and portray its government as weak in the eyes of its people.

Iran mustered up its will and is now enriching uranium to 60%, which increased from just under 4% to 20 % and has now reached 60 %. Iran also installed and brought online something in the order of 1000 advanced centrifuges at Natanz.

It would appear that the US, once again, missed its target. Its greatest achievement from all its plotting and planning has been to alienate the Iranian people.

It’s not just the level of purity but the production volume is also of great significance. Iran’s 20% enriched uranium reserves now exceed 210 kg, and its 60% reserves amount to 25 Kg.

Iran is also producing 150 types of deuterons, radiopharmaceuticals used for diagnosing and treating various diseases including cancer, and the best heavy water in the world.

Tehran has made considerable progress in producing lasers with applications in healthcare as well as various industrial sectors.

The April 2021 Natanz attack was not the first.

Last summer we saw the destruction of a large assembly facility for advanced centrifuges.

Then there was the assassination of yet another very prominent Iranian nuclear scientist, Dr Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, on 27 Nov 2020.

Some years ago, under the Obama administration, the cyber attack using Stuxnet, a malicious computer worm, did significant damage to the centrifuges at the Natanz facility.

In a move, commensurate to the American move, Iran has moved up to 60 percent uranium enrichment, which will strengthen its negotiating position in the current round of the Vienna talks.

The Americans and the Israelis had a plan to damage Iranian facilities by any means, one of which was the Stuxnet virus.

They had put the virus in the equipment installed in our facilities, enabling them to infiltrate some of the computers that run the centrifuges.

Needless to say, all centrifuges are run by computers. So the infected computers damaged some centrifuges.

They thought that the trick would destroy Iran’s nuclear industry, at least in Natanz, but they were wrong.

Hassan Beheshtipour, Analyst, Nuclear Issues

Between 2007 and 2012 several assassination attempts were made, leaving 4 nuclear scientists dead, Masoud Alimohammadi, Majid Shahriari, Darioush Rezaeinejad and Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, while another (Fereydoon Abbasi) was wounded in an attempted assassination in 2010 but survived.

However, looking at the IAEA reports on Iran’s nuclear achievements shows the only sabotage attempt that may actually have yielded the intended results was Stuxnet. 

They think that they can advance their agenda by assassinating people, which is partly true. After a scientist is assassinated, you’ll need to wait for 30 years to have someone like him trained, if at all.

After Dr. Shahriari, we still don’t have anyone who’d come close to him in their expertise and abilities.

This is a cause for concern. But on the other hand, this made people more resolute to continue their work with more rigor [sic].

Mahmoud Reza Aghamiri, Dean of Nuclear Engineering Faculty, Shahid Beheshti University

The one thing that really curbed Iran’s nuclear programme was diplomacy and convention, meaning the JCPOA signed in 2015 between Iran and the P5+1 which includes the US.

But Iran’s commitment to JCPOA was extinguished by US deal-breaking.

Considering the importance of education to the livelihood of the nuclear programme, universities are closely connected to nuclear research centers. In 1959, soon after the launch of the Iranian nuclear program, the Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC) was established as part of Tehran University.

And in 2007 the Nuclear Science and Technology Research Institute (NSTRI) was established to meet the country's demand for the development of nuclear science and technologies. NSTRI is affiliated to Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.

Examples for nuclear education and educational centers are many. But what is marvelous, is the 1300 students switching majors to nuclear sciences in 2012 to fill in for the assassinated scientist Ahmadi Roshan.

More than 1,500 sanctions were imposed on Iran after Trump/USA withdrew from the nuclear deal or agreement, many of which targeted Iran's nuclear activities.

It remains to be seen whether Iran’s nuclear progress, be it research or full membership of pertinent global nuclear organization, will serve as the deterrent and incentive intended to get those sanctions lifted during the November 2021 Vienna talks. 

 


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