Nuclear Profile on Iran

K. J. Costello
March 8, 2019

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018

Iran's Past Leads to Mistrust

Fig. 1: Bushehr nuclear power plant. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

A massive nuclear reactor is operating in Iran. The Bushehr Power Plant, shown in Fig. 1, is Iran's first commercial nuclear reactor. Iran has always been under a sense of suspicion due to their sophisticated approach and reasoning behind Uranium enrichment. Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has continuously denied the efforts and process of assembling a nuclear bomb and repeatedly says weapons of mass destruction are forbidden under Islam. For the past two decades, Iran has been engaged in a secret multifaceted program to assemble the equipment and facilities necessary to make nuclear materials. Iran originally joined the International Atomic Energy Agency in 1958. They went on to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968. However, under Bill Clinton, the United States announced its first concerns with Iran's nuclear energy program and the development of nuclear weapons. [1]

Striking the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

For the next fifteen years, Iran was always trying to present their peaceful nature of its nuclear energy pursuits. However, they weren't exactly trustworthy, in 2011 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report saying that it had "serious" concerns and "credible" information that Iran may had been developing nuclear weapons. [2] Furthermore, after decades of the US threatening to bomb nuclear facilities, Iran was finally willing to strike a deal. Under the Obama Administration, on July 14, 2015 Iran struck a deal and they agreed to reduce the number of Iranian centrifuges by two-thirds. [3] The agreement withholds provisions for U.N. sanctions to be re-enforced if Iran violates its commitments. [3] The deal called for no more than 5,060 first-generation centrifuges to enrich uranium for the next 10 years. [2] In addition, they were forced to export or dilute its enriched uranium stockpile in excess of 300 kilograms. [4] Furthermore, they were forced to limit its uranium enrichment research and development work, primarily in the Natanz facility. [4] These were the main restrictions, however, they also had to commit to not engage in a variety of other activities that were associated with nuclear weapons development, including technology transfer that could assist other countries with support

Reactions to the Deal

Critics of the JCPOA directly express concerns that the extensive sanctions relief provided, under the terms of the deal, give Iran additional resources to expand its influence in the region. [5] Meanwhile, there are many skeptics regarding implementing and enforcing the terms of the deal due to mistrust because of Iran previously trying to disguise its nuclear program and skirt international restrictions.

Trump's Reaction to the Deal

During the 2016 United States presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to renegotiate the JCPOA. Trump kept a close eye on IAEA assessments since the deal took effect and they found that Iran is indeed sticking to its obligations. [3] It's been documented that U.S. officials reported the JCPOA has extended the time it would take Iran to produce enough fissile material for a bomb from a few months to a year. Trump's attitude while campaigning echoed the fact that he thought the JCPOA was just simply slowing down the production of a nuclear bombs and he wanted to rid them of even coming close. Iran will redesign and rebuild a modernized heavy water research reactor in Arak using fuel enriched up to 3.67% in a form of an international partnership which will certify the final design. [4] The Trump administration has taken measure to assure Iran's transparency. Iran must allow IAEA to monitor implementation of the voluntary measures. This includes the monitoring of uranium ore concentrate produced by Iran from all uranium ore concentrate plants for 25 years. In addition, IAEA is also granted full- time containment and surveillance of centrifuge rotors and bellows for 20 years. [4]

© K.J. Costello. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] R. O. Freedman, "U.S. Policy Toward the Middle East in Clinton's Second Term," Middle East Rev. Int. Aff. 3, No. 1, 55 (1999).

[2] "Iran Nuclear Chronology," Nuclear Threat Initiative, May 2011.

[3] J. Cirincione, "Controlling Iran's Nuclear Program," Issues Sci. Technol. 22, 75 (2006).

[4] Richard Hooper, "Strengthening IAEA Safeguards in an Era of Nuclear Cooperation," Arms Control Today 25, No. 9, 14 (November 1995).

[5] K. Katzman and P. K. Kerr, " Iran Nuclear Agreement," Congressional Research Service, September 2017.