Analysis & Opinions - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Meeting Iran's Nuclear Fuel Supply Needs

| June 5, 2014

During the latest round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world powers, high-level discussion focused on Tehran's "practical needs," or how much fuel the country requires to keep its domestic nuclear energy program running. It's a sticking point in talks. Iran's negotiating partners—the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany, or P5+1—say that Iran receives all the fuel it requires for its program from foreign providers, and therefore doesn't need to enrich uranium on its soil. But Iran's government believes that relying on external supplies would make the country vulnerable, and insists that it needs to be self-sufficient—a goal that causes consternation in the West. Whether or not Tehran is accurate in its assessment, it will have to be satisfied for a deal to come off.

Does Iran really need to be self-sufficient in nuclear fuel? Its insistence on having an indigenous enrichment program has often been dismissed in the West as an issue of national pride. It's important not to discount pride as an element of any agreement—after all, Iran's negotiators will need to take home a deal they can stand behind. But Tehran's concerns extend beyond just nationalism. Reliance on other countries for energy is a dicey strategic prospect, as the United States knows only too well. And Iran has been cheated a number of times....

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For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Esfandiary, Dina and Ariane Tabatabai.“Meeting Iran's Nuclear Fuel Supply Needs.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, June 5, 2014.

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