Reliable Security Information


Iran's Nuclear Program

Introduction

Iran's leaders have worked to pursue nuclear energy technology since the 1950s, spurred by the launch of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace program. It made steady progress, with Western help, through the early 1970s. But concern over Iranian intentions followed by the upheaval of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 effectively ended outside assistance. Iran was known to be reviving its civilian nuclear programs during the 1990s, but revelations in 2002 and 2003 of clandestine research into fuel enrichment and conversion raised international concern that Iran's ambitions had metastasized beyond peaceful intent. Iran has consistently denied allegations it seeks to develop a bomb. Yet many in the international community remain skeptical. Despite a U.S. intelligence finding in November 2007 that concluded Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, the Bush administration warned that Iran sought to weaponize its nuclear program, concerns the Obama administration shares. Nonproliferation experts note Iran's ability to produce enriched uranium continues to progress but disagree on how close Iran is to mastering capabilities to weaponize.

Atoms from America

Iran's efforts to develop nuclear energy trace to 1957, in connection with a push from the Eisenhower administration to increase its military, economic, and civilian assistance to Iran. On March 5 of that year, the two countries announced a "proposed agreement for cooperation in research in the peaceful uses of atomic energy" under the auspices of Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace program. The deal was intended to open doors for U.S. investment in Iran's civilian nuclear industries, such as health care and medicine. The plan also called for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission to lease Iran up to 13.2 pounds of low-enriched uranium (LEU) for research purposes. Two years after the agreement was made public, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi ordered the...

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