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22 September 2017 - 15:15
News ID: 4607
Iran » Iran
Publish Date: 15:27 - 12 July 2014
Tehran, YJC. Prof. Matthew Bunn, consultant to the US Department of Energy, talks about Iran’s nuclear program and its negotiations with the West.

Matthew Bunn, Consultant to the US Department of Energy, in interview with Mehr news agency provides his view on Iran’s nuclear program.

1- Abbas Araqchi announced that any acceptance of limitation on Iranian nuclear activity by Iranian side will be temporarily, Does this mean that Iran shows flexibility even on some difference raisin issues?

Iran has indicated for some time that it wants restrictions on its nuclear program to be temporary. This is reflected in the Joint Plan of Action, which indicates that a comprehensive agreement will have a fixed term, and after that term, Iran will have the same rights and responsibilities as other states under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). In the past, Iran has violated its safeguards agreement with the IAEA, and there is substantial evidence (not just forgeries and false claims) that Iran done research and development related to nuclear weapons design. Hence, in order to restore international confidence that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful, and thereby convince foreign countries to lift their sanctions, Iran needs to accept reasonable additional limits on its nuclear program and additional inspections going beyond the NPT.

Prof. Matthew Bunn

2- How can the issue of centrifuges be settled?

Iran needs to understand that it will not be possible to achieve sanctions relief while maintaining some 20,000 installed centrifuges (much less the 50,000 to 100,000 Iranian negotiators have talked about). That number of centrifuges would make it possible to make the nuclear material for a bomb within weeks, leaving the international community too little time to respond. (Unfortunately, the centrifuges used to make low-enriched uranium for reactor fuel are the same as those that would be used to make high-enriched uranium for bomb material — and a much smaller number of centrifuges is needed to make material for a bomb, which requires kilograms of nuclear material rather than tens of tons needed each year for power reactor fuel.) Even if President Obama wanted to accept an agreement with that number of centrifuges, Congress would reject it and pass legislation imposing still worse sanctions on Iran with a two-thirds majority, making it impossible for Obama to veto. Hence, if Iran wants an agreement that will lead to lifting the most important sanctions, it will have to accept a limit of only a few thousand centrifuges.

Fortunately, that could serve Iran's interests as well. All but 1,000 or so of Iran's installed centrifuges are an older, inefficient model known as the IR-1, which is prone to breaking. For an efficient civilian program, Iran could abandon these older centrifuges and rely on the newer models now installed or the still better models Iran is now developing.

Indeed, iran does not need many centrifuges of any type to achieve its stated goal of providing reliable fuel supply for Iran's reactors. To ensure that it will have all the fuel it needs for its reactors, Iran could take several steps. First, it would make sense to negotiate an extension of the current 10-year fuel supply contract with Russia, perhaps to 20 years. Second, Iran could purchase fabricated fuel and store it at the reactor site in case there's ever an interruption of foreign fuel supply. South Korea, for example, which relies on nuclear energy for a major part of its electricity supply, typically stores a couple of year's worth of fuel to avoid any interruptions. Third, in the event of an interruption in fuel supply, Iran could draw on the IAEA fuel bank now being established in Kazakhstan.

It's important to understand that having tens of thousands of centrifuges in Iran does not actually solve the reliable fuel problem, for several reasons. First, Russia owns the fuel design for the fuel for the Bushehr reactor, and would no longer guarantee safety if Iran designed fuel of its own to use in that reactor (or other future Iranian plants). It's better to use the fuel the reactors are designed to use. Second, Iran has relatively limited uranium supplies, which could not provide enough fuel for a long-term reliable supply for Iran's reactors. Third, having an enrichment plant does not mean the plant will operate reliably — even if outsiders are not trying to sabotage it. Years ago, for example, an earthquake destroyed a major portion of the centrifuges in Pakistan's enrichment plant.

In short, the path to an agreement is an arrangement in which Iran would agree to a limit somewhere in the range of 1,000-5,000 centrifuges (with various other constraints to build confidence that there would be no covert facilities and that Iran could not rapidly produce bomb material), in return for lifting nuclear-related sanctions and various steps to ensure that Iran will have reliable fuel supply for its nuclear energy program.

3- Do you think that the two sides are focusing on reaching a deal till20th of July or they are going to extend the period?

Both sides have strong incentives to try to get a deal by July 20. But that will be a very difficult goal to accomplish, given the wide gaps between the two sides' positions on some topics and the many complex issues involved. (The good news is that the sides seem to have reached a common approach on the Arak reactor, which the P5+1 feared could be used to produce plutonium.) If I were betting money, I would bet that there will be some form of extension, possibly for three months, possibly for six.

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