The red flag over yellow cake

Iran claims - correctly - that it has the right to nuclear energy.

By ERIC SCHECHTER
December 22, 2005 14:04
1 minute read.

 
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Iran claims - correctly - that it has the right to nuclear energy. According to the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968, which Iran signed, countries may develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. This includes access to the whole nuclear fuel cycle, i.e. mining the uranium, reconstituting it into "yellow cake," converting it into a gas and, finally, feeding it through a centrifuge until it is enriched. Here's the tricky part: While low-level enriched uranium is used for nuclear fuel, the highly enriched stuff can be used in nuclear weapons, and all indications on the ground point to an Iranian intention to develop the latter instead of just powering light bulbs, blow dryers and TV sets. In fact, it was not until August 2002, when an Iranian opposition group revealed its existence, that the Islamic Republic admitted to constructing a uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy-water reactor at Arak. Iran subsequently halted enrichment and allowed IAEA inspections of its facilities while three European Union countries - Britain, France and Germany - sought a diplomatic solution. Iran has claimed all along that its nuclear program at Natanz is for generating electricity. But critics say the argument makes little economic sense as the country's natural gas and oil reserves can supply it with all the energy it needs. As for the Arak reactor, it seems rather large for producing medical isotopes for cancer treatment. Meanwhile, as diplomacy falters, Iran has purchased $700 million worth of TOR M-1 batteries from Russia. The TOR-M1 is a mobile and very lethal surface-to-air missile system designed to take down aircraft, remotely piloted vehicles and guided missiles at both medium and low altitude. Deliveries of the TOR systems are expected to begin in 2006, and it doesn't take a military genius to guess which facilities these weapons will be defending.

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