Iran’s Nuclear Program: Status (Congressional Research Service)

09 Oct 2019

Iran’s Nuclear Program: Status

Congressional Research Service

Updated October 09, 2019



Iran’s nuclear program began during the 1950s. Construction of a U.S.-supplied research reactor, called the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), located in Tehran began in 1960; the reactor went critical in 1967.1 During the 1970s, Tehran pursued an ambitious nuclear power program. According to contemporaneous U.S. documents, Iran wanted to construct 10-20 nuclear power reactors and produce more than 20,000 megawatts of nuclear power by 1994.2 Iran also began constructing a light-water nuclear power reactor near the city of Bushehr, and it considered obtaining uranium enrichment and reprocessing technology.

Proliferation Concerns

Iran took steps to demonstrate that it was not pursuing nuclear weapons. For example, Tehran signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 and ratified it in 1970. Iran also submitted a draft resolution to the U.N. General Assembly in 1974 that called for establishing a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East. Nevertheless, mid-1970s U.S. intelligence reports expressed concern that Iran might pursue a nuclear weapons program.3 Although Iran cancelled its nuclear program after its 1979 revolution, a 1981 Department of State draft paper argued that Iran might develop a nuclear weapons program in response to a then-suspected Iraqi nuclear weapons program, although Iran was not one of several countries of “near to medium term proliferation concern” cited in the paper.4 Tehran “reinstituted” its nuclear program in 1982.5 According to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports, Iran conducted experiments during the 1980s and early 1990s related to uranium conversion, heavy-water production, and nuclear reactor fuel fabrication. A 1985 National Intelligence Council report, which cited Iran as a potential “proliferation threat,” stated ...

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