It is fitting that the nuclear framework agreement reached by the five Security Council members plus Germany with Iran was done so in Switzerland. Switzerland is one of the pioneers in “peaceful” uses of nuclear power with some 36% of its electric power supply coming from nuclear power. The fascinating fact is that it has developed this wide-scale use of nuclear power without producing its own enriched uranium. So too has Finland, Spain and many others that use nuclear power for electric supply. The point is that no one needs to enrich uranium to engage in peaceful uses of nuclear power, enriched fuel is readily available from several sources, principally the USA and Russia.
Iran already has an operating nuclear power station that did not require it enriching uranium. And there is no reason it could not expand this use without enriching uranium. Perhaps even more relevant, Iran has the world’s largest reserves of natural gas and natural gas supplies some 75% of its electric power. There is no reason for Iran to move to massive use of nuclear power to supply electricity, this will remain a secondary supply.
The question that should be posed is “why does Iran need uranium enrichment facilities?” The “peaceful uses” argument does not make this case. However, a nation does need enrichment facilities to produce the highly enriched uranium required for nuclear weapons. Highly enriched uranium is not readily available on world markets and is tightly controlled by those who do make it. No, a nation does not need enrichment facilities to produce low enriched uranium for “peaceful uses, ” it needs this to make the basic material for nuclear weapons.
No matter how Iran makes the case, its non-negotiable demand to have enrichment facilities clearly demonstrates its intention to develop nuclear weapons. We can put all the inspections and checks we want but the presence of these facilities means it will pursue weapons.