Iran Nuclear Update – 2000

Iran has been a member of the Nonproliferation Treaty since 1970 and claims not to have a nuclear weapons program. U.S. officials, however, believe Iran is trying to build the bomb secretly and is using a nuclear power program to mask the effort.

Bushehr: Russia continues to build a 1000-megawatt light-water reactor at Bushehr despite American efforts to stop the project. Germany cancelled its plans to build the reactor in 1979 soon after the outbreak of the Iranian revolution.

In 1998, the United States persuaded Turboatom, a Ukrainian firm, to abandon its $45 million contract to build turbines for the Bushehr reactor. That same year, Russian officials announced that the Bushehr power station would double in size, with four reactors instead of two as originally planned.

In April 2000, the United States successfully persuaded the Czech Republic to bar its companies from supplying components to Bushehr, including the ZVVZ Milevsko company which had been contracted to supply air conditioning equipment. The United States also appealed directly to the Russians by offering them $100 million to abandon the reprocessing of spent fuel from other countries and to stop the construction of Bushehr. However, Russia’s Minister of Atomic Energy Yevgeny Adamov insisted that Russia would not give up its contract with Iran, which could be worth $1 billion.

Construction at Bushehr is running about 18 months behind schedule, and Russian officials now estimate the project will be completed by 2002. According to Yevgeny Reshetnikov, Russia’s deputy minister of atomic energy, large-scale physical works at Bushehr began in February, and there were approximately 47,000 pieces of usable German equipment available. Another 10,000 pieces of mechanical and electrical equipment are available for use, but they lack the necessary quality assurance documentation or are obsolete.

Other nuclear imports: It was reported in 1998 that Western intelligence agencies believed that the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) was trying to procure equipment used in laser enrichment of uranium. According to the reports, the AEOI was working on both molecular laser isotope separation (MLIS) and atomic vapor laser isotope separation (AVLIS) at the Laser Research Center in Tehran. Iran has also been indigenously producing neodyne ytterbium-aluminum (Nd-YAG) lasers.

In February 1999 the United States imposed sanctions on ten Russian entities for allegedly selling nuclear and missile technology to Iran. The companies are: Baltic State Technical University, Europalace 2000, Glavkosmos, Grafit (State Scientific Research Institute of Graphite), INOR Scientific Center, Moso, Polyus Scientific Production Association, D. Mendeleyev University of Chemical Technology of Russia, Moscow Aviation Institute, and divisions of the Scientific Research and Design Institute of Power Technology.