Iran

The promised progress from the Iranian nuclear deal appears still to be far from materializing.  The deal, or more formally, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was signed on July 14, 2015.  On September 10th, the last attempt to block the deal in the US Congress failed.  Almost immediately, a magical array of coincidences began.

1)  September 12:  Iran finds an "unexpectedly high" reserve of uranium.  According to Reuters, extraction will begin soon.  Prior assumptions by the West were that Iran had an insufficient domestic supply of uranium, and would soon need to import.  The ability to influence import routes was implicitly viewed as a natural brake on cheating.  That brake is gone.

"I cannot announce (the level of) Iran's uranium mine reserves. The important thing is that before aerial prospecting for uranium ores we were not too optimistic, but the new discoveries have made us confident about our reserves," Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.
 

Through the magic of flying machines, Iran discovers it really does have big uranium deposits.

 

Yup; a little magic from flying machines, and all of a sudden Iran found Uranium.  Of course, pretty much every country on earth prospects its territory for valuable natural resources, and does so all the time.  The US Geological Survey, for example, was founded way back in 1879.  It has been looking for valuable minerals ever since.  Given how focused Iran has been on the nuclear fuel cycle, the idea they just discovered a new deposit is laughable.  Alas, it is hardly the only example of laughing.

2)  October 10:  Iran tests a nuclear-capable ballistic missile, in clear violation of UN Security Council resolution 1929.  The resolution was adopted in 2010; it remains in effect until the Joint Comprehensive Plan takes effect.  But even after that,

Iran will still be "called upon" to refrain from undertaking any work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons for a period of up to eight years, according to a Security Council resolution adopted in July.

Countries would be allowed to transfer missile technology and heavy weapons to Iran on a case-by-case basis with council approval.

However, in July a U.S. official called this provision meaningless and said the United States would veto any suggested transfer of ballistic missile technology to Iran.

Somebody ought to email John Kerry that no "transfer" will be needed before there's a problem, and that perhaps "calling upon" Iran not to take action isn't the best strategy to contain proliferation. 

3)  October 15:  Iranian underground missile bases enable surprise launches.  In the off chance that maybe Iran mines and enriches its own uranium and loads it into a warhead in its own ballistic missile, it'sIran underground missiles good to know that they have undergound launch bases to "store and covertly fire surface-to-surface missiles."  Although the exact location of this facility is not known, Iran is quite proud of its underground lair and published some big glossy photos.  The location shown supposedly has a complex system of very large underground tunnels, and the potential to fire the missiles through surface vents, making advance detection more difficult.  Iran has stated it has many of these underground installations, which may or may not be true.

4)  Plutonium pathways and the Joint Agreement:  unsung or not so much?  As highlighted by the New York Times, a major benefit of the deal (they term it the "unsung concession") is Iranian agreement to redesign their Arak reactor so it can't be used to produce plutonium. The Times notes that

some nuclear experts voice incomprehension at what they see as a lopsided focus on uranium in evaluations of the deal reached with Iran — under which Tehran would forsake the production of plutonium.

Greg Jones, who as worked with both the RAND Corporation and the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC), has a somewhat less sanguine take on this part of the deal:

The reactor's original design utilized natural uranium fuel, heavy water as the moderator and had a power level of 40 MW.  This reactor would have produced nine to ten kilograms of plutonium per year.  Under the terms of the Iran nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA) the reactor will be redesigned to use approximately 3.5% enriched uranium fuel and have its power level reduced to 20 MW.

The reactor will still produce significant amounts of plutonium, about one to one and one half kilograms of plutonium a year.  Though Iran is required to export the spent nuclear fuel containing the plutonium, Iran is allowed to keep the fuel for at least one year, which would allow Iran to accumulate at least two to three kilograms of plutonium, enough for a nuclear weapon.  Though the Administration claims that the JCPOA blocks Iran's plutonium path to a nuclear weapon, this clearly is not the case.

While reducing the amount of plutonium produced by this reactor would seem to be an important accomplishment, it is not. The JCPOA will accelerate the completion of the Arak reactor and the start of its plutonium production by having the IAEA and countries such as Russia provide technical, material and financial assistance.

Indeed, Russia and Iran do seem to be BFF's these days.

5)  Closing the potential channel of bomb material from power reactors.  Henry Sokolski, the Executive Director of NPEC, has another interesting angle of this core issue of containing Iranian access to fissionable material.  He points out that the negotiating team has inadequately addressed the potential for military diversion from Iran's light-water power reactor (LWR) at Bushehr.  Is this a big deal?  Sokolski thinks so:  in the early 1990s, this reactor was a "key focus of international concern."

The administrations of Bill Clinton and both the Bushes initially did all they could to prevent its completion, not only because it was serving as a cover for other nuclear-weapons-related activities (e.g., uranium enrichment, the transfer of weapon design information, and heavy-water-reactor technology and hardware), but also because the reactor itself was seen as a potential source of nuclear-weapons-explosive plutonium. When it became clear, however, that Bushehr was likely to be completed and that any hope of securing Russian assistance in limiting Iran's uranium-enrichment and heavy-water-reactor projects turned on grandfathering Bushehr, top Bush officials decided in 2007 to make the concession. After this, what was done at Bushehr was treated as an intrinsically "peaceful" activity. Even the politicians and governments most suspicious of Iran and critical of the Iran deal - George W. Bush, the French, and Benjamin Netanyahu - now accept the legitimacy of Iran's present and future "peaceful" power reactors. Because such critics of the deal did not demand that there be additional surveillance of Bushehr, those focused on closing the deal didn't ask. After all, LWRs were deemed to be unambiguously "peaceful."

He notes that LWRs have long been a concern, and that lightly irradiated fuel poses the largest risk.  Three years ago, "Iran emptied all of the fuel from Bushehr after only a few months of operation," a fuel load with enough weapons-grade plutonium to make as many as 24 weapons. 

Conversion requires a chemical processing plant, but there remains a concern that such a clandestine plant does exist within Iran.  While preventing this proliferation venue entirely may not be possible, it can be greatly reduced fairly simply:  by tracking the spent fuel at all Iranian reactors via round-the-clock monitoring.  The Joint Agreement included this for most Iranian facilities; but it did not include such monitoring at Bushehr.  Sokolski quite reasonably argues it should.

1) Official fact sheet on agreement suggests many business-as-usual policies will remain.  Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Belfer Center translated a Farsi fact sheet on the agreement that was released by the Iranian Foreign  Ministry.  There appears to be a fair bit of wiggle room here.  Some excerpts:

...The package containing these solutions does not have legal binding and will only provide a conceptual guide for calibrating and assessing a Comprehensive Plan of Joint Action. On these grounds, the drafting of a Comprehensive Plan of Joint Action based on these solutions will begin in the near future...

According to the framework of existing solutions, none of the nuclear facilities or related activities will be stopped, shut down, or suspended, and Iran's nuclear activities in all of its facilities including Natanz, Fordow, Isfahan, and Arak will continue...According to the reached solutions, Iran will continue its research and development on advanced machines and will continue the initiation and completion phases of the research and development process of IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, and IR-8 centrifuges during the 10 year period of the Comprehensive Plan for Joint Action.

These centrifuges are faster than the existing ones in use, and therefore would shorten Iran's breakout time to a bomb.

On sanctions, the fact sheet reads:

According to the reached solutions, after the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan of Joint Action, all of the UN Security Council resolutions will be revoked, and all of the multilateral economic and financial sanctions of the EU and the unilateral ones of the US including financial, banking, insurance, investment, and all related services, including oil, gas, petrochemicals, and automobile industries will be immediately revoked. In addition, nuclear-related sanctions against real and legal individuals, entities, and public and private institutions, including the Central Bank, other financial and banking institutions, SWIFT, shipping and aviation industries of the Islamic Republic of Iran, oil tanker companies, will be immediately removed. Also, the P5+1 member countries are committed to restraining from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.

With such a level of distrust already on Iranian implementation, a phased removal would seem to make more sense and provide continued leverage for cooperation and compliance.  The immediate removal of all sanctions leaves little room to address future cheating -- and based on current statements, cheating seems a near certainty.

2)  Top Iranian officials quoted as saying faster centrifuges will go into production the day the agreement is signed.  FARS is the semi-official news agency of Iran.  Full article is here

Iran has said that its IR-8 centrifuges enrich uranium 20 times faster than the IR-1 centrifuges it currently uses.

According to the FARS report, "Iran's foreign minister and nuclear chief both told a closed-door session of the parliament on Tuesday that the country would inject UF6 gas into the latest generation of its centrifuge machines as soon as a final nuclear deal goes into effect by Tehran and the six world powers."

It said that Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) head Ali Akbar Salehi made the promise when they briefed legislators on the framework agreement, and claimed the move was permitted under the terms of the deal.

The use of faster centrifuges is not allowable according to the US interpretation of the framework.

3) Places to hide nuclear work remain, as military sites declared exempt from inspections.  Of course, when a country knows certain locations are free of oversight, any illicit work naturally migrates there.  Here's the lowdown from the Iranian Minster of Defense:

Iranian Defense Minister Major General Hossein Dehqan said there has been "no agreement on inspecting Iran's military facilities and no visits will be allowed."   He made the remarks on Wednesday in answer to reports that during Iran's nuclear negotiations in Lausanne, Tehran agreed to have its military centers inspected.  Dehqan underlined that access to the country's military centers is among the Islamic Republic's red lines.

Earth Track Blog Post

The word out of Switzerland yesterday was that "Iran and and six world powers had agreed on the outlines of an understanding that would open the path to a final phase of nuclear negotiations but are in a dispute over how much to make public."  What exactly is the dispute over?  The AP noted that

Pressured by congressional critics in the U.S. who threaten to impose new sanctions on Iran over what they say is a bad emerging deal, the Obama administration is demanding significant public disclosure of agreements and understandings reached at the current round. But the officials say Iran wants a minimum made public.

Iranian leaders are opposed to two agreements, saying previous two-stage negotiations were detrimental to their interests.

If we have an agreement and nobody knows the details, we can always claim compliance

Earlier today, word of a framework agreement being reached spread over the internet.  The original AP article flagging the areas of dispute pretty much disappeared from everywhere, heading down the memory hole (nearly everywhere; I found one paper still displaying the earlier report and took a screen shot). 

In its place, AP's newest update on the successful agreement could be seen.   But descriptions of the deal remain vague, and the narrative on the disputes over disclosure disappeared.  Time will tell how these concerns were resolved, or if they were just papered over. 

Thank goodness for "Congressional critics" on this one, and let's hope the negotiators get it right before the sanctions are lifted.  While US sanctions can be implemented again should Iran fail to live up to its side of the agreement, reinstituting sanctions from the broad array of countries now participating will be near impossible.

The transparency issue remains quite important and should not be ignored even if the narrative in the press reports has shifted. There is a rather morbid irony in a country with a special police force (the Basij) focused on identifying and punishing people for the most personal of breaches of a state-defined code of morality,1 arguing that the fundamental terms of an agreement to prevent nuclear proliferation in this important region of the world should be private.  The entire line of argument is ludicrous.  What you wear, who you are with, and what you read or watch on TV?  State business.  Basic commitments to prevent nuclear weapons development?  Nobody's business.

I mean, why should the rest of us worry that Iranian consent to an agreement with invisible clauses won't actually be followed?  Greg Jones of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center has been tracking the Iranian nuclear effort for quite some time.  Probably his documentation of past non-compliance, even when the expectations were visible, should be ignored as unimportant. We should also overlook the examples Jones' presents where Secretary of State John Kerry said there was Iranian compliance, but objectively there was not.  I'm sure that behavior won't be a factor in the current negotiations, and Kerry has learned from his past over-optimism. 

And by all means we should also ignore what seemed very much like an April Fool's Day joke headline yesterday -- but unfortunately turned out to be real:  "Iran militia chief:  Destroying Israel is 'nonnegotiable'," quoting the Basij's commander Mohammad Reza Naqdi.  You know how customized those inalienable rights can be across countries... let's just consider this the Iranian version of our own "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and move on, shall we?

Proliferation is an externality of nuclear power

Coal power has pollution and mining accidents.  Oil has pollution and spills and security chokepoints.  Wind has bird kills and corn ethanol pesticide runoff, water and soil depletion, and overuse of antibiotics.  Every form of energy has some negative effects, and nuclear is no exception. 

In addition to very significant challenges to manage the radioactive wates and periodic catastrophic accidents, the nuclear fuel cycle has the ongoing externality of proliferation.  It is not, as many nuclear power boosters like to argue, a totally separate issue and one that should be ignored when evaluating the trade-offs and economics of their fairy-tale massive expansions of nuclear reactors worldwide.  Quite the opposite:  it is an issue that has been central to the evolution and expansion of nuclear power since the inception of the industry.

The processes and expertise for building weapons and generating electricity are not exactly the same.  But they don't need to be for there to be problems.  The civilian and the military paths are certainly interlinked, and there is enough overlap that countries frequently use claims about their need for nuclear power as cover for all sorts of other military and geopolitical aims. 

There is a strong logic to this tactic.  Working on power gives them the time and space to develop equipment, expertise, and professional (or not-so-professional) ties with people in the know.  Activities during these years enable them to build the knowledge and technical base that can easily be extended at a time of their own choosing towards weapons.  It allows them to distribute production capacity, harden production sites, and establish production redundancies that make military action to roll back programs, should the need arise to do so, much more costly in blood and treasure.

And yet the world pretends this isn't happening, and the "right" to develop "peaceful" nukes is somehow sacrosanct -- more so even than the human rights that the current Iranian government so frequently ignores.  This right to peaceful programs is claimed even if the subsidy-free price of nuclear power would be well beyond a level at which the nuclear investments would be justifiable, and at which many other alternatives would easily outcompete nuclear as the marginal source of energy. 

This right is upheld even though more rational reading of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) agreement suggests that the "rights" for non-nuclear states to pursue near-bomb capabilities can both be properly limited and properly constrained under the terms of the agreement.  Indeed, doing so could short-circuit what has become a decade-long circus of negotiators arguing about whether or not Iran is doing innocent "research," actually building a bomb, or doing research so they can build a bomb quickly when they decide they want one.

And just for fun, here's an ad from the pre-revolution days in Iran.  The ad clearly illustrates the US role in promoting nuclear power in Iran as though it were little more complicated than plopping down a windmill in a farm field somewhere.  Nuclear is presented as a resource that, with a little government help of course, can soon come to a neighborhood near you. 

Historical artifact?  Not really.  How many countries are playing out this same scenario today -- whether with the US, France, Russia, South Korea, or others as their plant subsidizer?  And without any government subsidies to financing, accidents, land, construction, waste management, and decommissioning, how many of these plants would be built based on their own economic merit?  It is a question well worth asking.

 

  • 1. A brief summary from Wikipedia: "In Iran, Basiji act as 'morality police' in towns and cities by 'enforcing the wearing of the hijab; arresting women for violating the dress code; prohibiting male-female fraternization; monitoring citizens' activities; confiscating satellite dishes and `obscene` material; intelligence gathering; and even harassing government critics and intellectuals. Basij volunteers also act as bailiffs for local courts.'
Earth Track Blog Post

A quite interesting summary of the challenges associated with the Iranian nuclear program has been written by Gregory Jones, and released by NPEC.  Some key points:

  • The Iranian production rate of reactor-grade enriched fuel has been increasing, not decreasing.
  • The conversion of fuel grade to 20% enrichment levels for "research" purposes has been allowed, and not considered a violation of Iran's responsibilities as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
  • Because most of work required to enrich uranium is expended at low concentrations, going from a 20% enrichment level to the 90% level needed for bomb-grade is relatively minor.  Jones estimates it would take only two weeks.  While this step would constitute a violation of the NPT, there would be little lead time to do anything about it.  Jones argues that while Iran also needs to develop a weapon in which to use the bomb-grade material, much of that process could be done in parallel.  Bottom line:  the cover provided by a wildly uneconomic civilian power program in Iran has eliminated most of the leadtime to produce a bomb. 
Earth Track Blog Post

Clandestine nuclear programs have been at the heart of many difficult international conflicts, and that number seems likely to grow.  Although the overlap in skills, technologies, and equipment between civilian and military programs is both substantial and well-recognized, the push for the expansion of civilian nuclear power -- even when it makes no economic sense -- has continued unabated.  Often, this is justified under the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) that came into force in 1970.

The specific issue of whether the rights garned in the NPT on "peaceful" nuclear development are absolute, or constrained by other factors like nearly every other legal agreement in existence, including the US Constitution, is one that has not gotten enough attention.

Henry Sokolski, Executive Director of the Nonproliferation Education Center, has taken this on directly as part of a much longer essay on US mis-steps that contributed to the current Iranian nuclear crisis.  His entire essay is worth a read, but I'm grateful for his permission to reprint the section on civilian power and the NPT below:

Exaggerated the value of peaceful nuclear energy and NPT member states’ right to it.

One of the reasons Washington felt so comfortable promoting civilian nuclear energy in the Middle East is that it was a diplomatic path that already was well worn. Back in the l970s, the US endorsed the Shah’s fantastic nuclear plans to assure Iran’s dominate role in the Persian Gulf and its strategic ties to the US. Even after initial plans were dropped to transfer reprocessing technology, Carter subsequently offered the Shah access to this technology again. At the same time, the U.S., Russia, Germany, and France all competed for nuclear sales and political influence in the Middle East by offering nuclear reactors to Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Iran, and Algeria. This was the state of play just before the Shah was deposed.

Meanwhile, the US and nuclear supplier states gave up demanding through INFCE that states back off making nuclear fuel and let the market dictate what was safe and dangerous. This meant the US and others winked at Brazil, South Africa, Germany, Holland, Japan as they stood up nuclear fuel making efforts. Finally, when the crisis over Iranian fuel making came in 2002, the US and the EU almost reflexively jumped to affirm Iran’s right to develop “peaceful nuclear energy” in ways that only made Iran’s efforts to make nuclear fuel seem increasingly legitimate.

Thus, the EU was careful in its first offering of incentives to Iran to allow that Iran retained its right to peaceful nuclear energy and to offer it light water reactors. Shortly thereafter, President Bush’s national security advisor conceded Iran had the right to make nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes but suggested that it would be best if Iran could see the wisdom of exercising that right on Russian soil. It was about this time in 2006 that the US backed off its objections to Bushehr as a front for and possible path to acquiring nuclear weapons. Instead, Washington announced that deemed that Bushehr was peaceful and legitimate.

More recently, the U.S and others offered to supply Iran with nuclear fuel enriched to 19.75 percent. When the negotiations for such supplies broke down over differences regarding the swap out of low enriched Iranian fuel, Iran insisted that it must proceed to enrich to 19.75 percent – which technically is on the cusp of being  weaponsgrade. Finally, in May of 2010, the U.S. backed countries’ rights to develop peaceful nuclear energy in the final declaration of the NPT Review Conference. This declaration, though, not only iterates all countries’ right to peaceful nuclear energy. It prohibits reinterpreting the NPT’s protection of peaceful nuclear activities under Article IV in any way that would “limit” these rights. It also affirms the importance of all member states availing themselves of Gen IV International Forum efforts and moving toward a “sustainable fuel cycle” – i.e., all code for recycling nuclear fuel and moving toward fast reactors – technologies historically associated with making nuclear reactor fuels that can be quickly converted into nuclear weapons.

These views and actions  correspond with the conventional wisdom that any reading of the NPT that might curtail NPT members’ rights to peaceful nuclear energy is simply a nonstarter. Such a view, however, is mistaken about how absolute these rights are. In fact, some of the NPT’s peaceful nuclear energy benefits have already been significantly reinterpreted and effectively abolished.

Consider the Article V of the NPT and its call on nuclear weapons states to share the possible benefits of peaceful nuclear explosives. When Article V was first proposed in the 1960s, most nations, including the U.S. and Russia, believed that nuclear explosives could be employed as “ploughshares” to create canals and to complete other civil engineering tasks, including mining and excavation. To assure nonweapons states the possible benefits of such nuclear applications, the NPT allowed nuclear weapons states to share such benefits by supplying nuclear explosive services to nonweapons states on a turn-key basis.

To date, no state, though, has applied for such assistance nor has any state offered it for two unanticipated reasons. First, the “possible benefits of peaceful nuclear explosives” turned out to be negative: Given the costs of cleaning up the radioactive debris that the use of peaceful nuclear explosives would produce, it became clear that it would be far cheaper to use conventional explosives for civil engineering applications. In short, there were no “benefits” to share.

Second and closely related, the few states that insisted on conducting their own “peaceful nuclear test explosions” – India and Russia – were strongly suspected of using Article V as a cover for nuclear weapons testing. Certainly, the U.S. and most nuclear supplying states sanctioned India for its 1974 test of a “peaceful nuclear device” by depriving it access to most controlled civilian nuclear supplies and, in time, any nuclear explosion, “peaceful” or not, was seen as a violation of a norm against any form of nuclear testing.

This example of Article V’s reinterpretation speaks directly to several of the NPT’s most pressing current difficulties. As already noted, the prevailing view of the “inalienable right” to “peaceful nuclear energy” recognized by the NPT is that this right automatically allows states to participate in any nuclear activity, no matter how uneconomical or dangerous, so long as it has some conceivable civilian application and the materials or activities in questions are occasionally inspected by IAEA inspectors or their equivalent. This is Japan’s view, and that of the Netherlands, Germany, South Africa, Brazil, Iran, and the US.

Yet, how Article V is now read suggests that there is another more sensible way to interpret Article IV. This interpretation recognizes the explicit qualifications made in the NPT on exercising the inalienable right to peaceful nuclear energy. This right, the NPT notes in Article IV, must be implemented “in conformity” with the treaty’s clear strictures in Articles I and II. These two articles, in turn, prohibit nuclear weapons states “in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,” and ban nonweapons states from seeking or receiving “any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.”

Properly understood, being “in conformity” with Articles I and II implies also being in conformity with Article III, the NPT requirement that all nonweapons states accept the imposition of international nuclear safeguards on all of their civilian nuclear activities and materials to prevent their military diversion to make bombs. Certainly a nonweapons state refusing such safeguards would be an implicit violation of Article II. Thus, the final statement of the 2000 NPT Review Conference refers to the need for nonweapons state members to exercise their Article IV activities in conformity with Articles I, II and III.

Technically, this condition is difficult to meet. Not all nuclear activities and materials can in fact be safeguarded to prevent their diversion to make bombs. Some activities, e.g., nuclear fuel making and operating large nuclear programs in hostile, noncooperative states (e.g., North Korea or Iran), cannot be inspected in a fashion that can reliably assure detection of a possible military diversion early enough to provide sufficient time to intervene to prevent the production of a bomb. Similarly, some nuclear materials are so weapons usable (e.g., highly enriched uranium, separated plutonium or plutonium based fuels) that reliable and timely detection of their diversion to make bombs is simply not possible.

This, then, raises the question: If a nuclear activity or material is so close to bomb making that it cannot be safeguarded against military diversion, is it protected as being “peaceful”  under Article IV of the NPT? In the 1970s, it was hoped that nuclear fuel making in Japan, Brazil, South Africa,  the Netherlands, and Germany could be safeguarded. Yet, recent discoveries of nuclear weapons usable materials unaccounted for (MUF) in Japan and the UK raise serious questions as to whether or not these assumptions were ever sound. We also know from experience in Iraq, Libya, Iran, Syria, and North Korea that the IAEA inspections system cannot be relied upon to find covert nuclear weapon related activities in states that refuse to cooperate fully with IAEA inspectors.

Many less developed states would answer, as  Iran has, that the NPT’s preamble explicitly stipulates that all of peaceful nuclear energy’s benefits, including  “any technological by products which may be derived from the development of nuclear explosives” should be “available” for civilian purposes to all states. This would suggest that the NPT recognizes and protects a per  se right of all states to get to the very brink of making bombs.

Yet, if The NPT is dedicated to sharing the  “benefits” of peaceful nuclear energy, these benefits presumably must be measurably “beneficial” and be  distant enough from bomb making or the risk of being easily diverted to that purpose so that inspections  could reliably detect their military conversion in a timely fashion (i.e., well before any bombs might be made). At the very least, what is protected ought not to be both dangerous and unprofitable. That, after all, is why the NPT bans the transfer of civilian nuclear explosives, only allowed the sharing of civilian nuclear explosive  services on a turn key basis, and why ultimately this offer was never acted upon.

In the first term of the Bush  administration, the State Department went out of its way to point out just how uneconomical Iran’s nuclear power program was. It, questioned the need for nuclear power in gas rich nations, such as Iran and Saudi  Arabia. Economic analyses were conducted to determine just how uneconomical such nuclear programs were when compared to making power with readily available natural gas. This line of inquiry, however, was hardly allowed to proceed very far and was almost entirely shut off in Bush’s second term.