Fissile Material Acquisition Efforts
The conditions of industrial potential in Iran was such that without outside help, Iran was unable to organize production of weapons-grade nuclear materials. Iran reportedly tried to acquire fissile material to support development of nuclear weapons, and attempted to develop the capability to produce both plutonium and highly enriched uranium.
In an attempt to shorten the timeline to a weapon, Iran was thought to have launched a parallel effort to purchase fissile material, mainly from sources in the former Soviet Union. There were no convincing reports of any illegal deliveries of nuclear raw materials or nuclear fuel to Iran. Persistent media reports dating back to 1991 concerning four nuclear warheads which Tehran supposedly bought from Kazakhstan remained unconfirmed.
In his 2002 book, The High Cost of Peace: How Washington's Middle East Policy Left America Vulnerable to Terrorism, author Yossef Bodansky claimed: "In December , the Kazakh deal came to fruition, and Iran made its first purchase of nuclear weapons. The deal included two 40-kiloton warheads for a Scud-type surface-to-surface ballistic missile; one aerial bomb of the type carried by a MiG-27; and one 152mm nuclear artillery shell. These weapons reached initial operational status in late January 1992 and full operational status a few months later."
Despite economic handicaps, Iran admitted to the Internatioanl Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2003 that it had been experimenting in converting uranium and other enrichment activities, as well as possibly plotunium seperation experiments, as early as the mid 1980s. Iran secured foreign nuclear material only after a deal reached between Iran and Russia for the construction of a light water reactor at Bushehr involved an agreement to supply the nuclear fuel.
Atomstroyexport was the Russian company building the light water reactor at Bushehr for Iran. The project cost a total of 184 million dollars. One of the final steps in the construction of the plant was delayed because Atomstroyexport accused the Iranian government of not paying its bill in a timely manner. The Iranians instead claimed that the problems were due to political pressure by the west. Still, the Russians delivered 163 basic and 17 emergency fuel assemblies totaling 82 metric tons of uranium of 3.62 percent uranium 235 purity. Before the containers of nuclear material left Russian they were sealed by members of the IEAEA and placed into special containment facilities, all the while IAEA inspectors watched over the handover of nuclear fuel. When the fuel had been spent, expected to occur after ten years of operation, the waste would be returned to Russia.
The first delivery took place on 16 December 2007. The second shipment contained 24 fuel assemblies, shipped via air to the Bushehr on the night of the 27/28 December 2007. The third batch of fuel was delivered 18 January 2008 and was delivered via cargo plane. The shipment contained 24 fuel assemblies (FA), 9 control and protection system rods (CPS) and 9 burnable poison bundles (BPB). On the night of 19/20 January 2008 the fourth portion of nuclear material was delivered. This shipment contained 24 FA, 12 CPS rods and 8 burnable absorber bundles. The fifth shipment of nuclear fuel was in Iran on the night of the 21 January 2008 and contained 24 FA, 10 control rods and 10 absorber rod bundles. The sixth delivery took place on 23/24 January 2008. This shipment weighted 17 metric tons included 24 fuel assemblies, a set of control rods and burnable absorber bundles. The Organization for Atomic Energy of Iran stated the seventh delivery of nuclear materials occurred on 26 January 2008. The final five metric ton bundle arrived on 28 January 2008. It was thought that after the fuel had been delivered, and given that one of the two pressurized water reactors was very nearly completed, the plant would start working as early as July to September of 2008.
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