Defusing The Iran Crisis

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At heart this dispute revolves around Iranian efforts to enrich natural uranium (i.e., increase its content of fissionable U-235) in its own facilities—either for use as a fuel in civilian power plants, as claimed by Tehran, or as the core of nuclear bombs, as claimed by Washington. Enrichment activities of this sort aren't prohibited by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which Iran signed in 1968, but would constitute a breach if the highly enriched uranium was used for military purposes.

The problem for international regulators is that the enrichment technology used to make civilian reactor fuel—in this case, uranium gas centrifuges—can also be used to make highly enriched uranium, and it's not possible to determine the objective of such an operation until it's well under way. Accordingly, those who fear that Iran is intent on obtaining nuclear weapons seek to prevent any enrichment from taking place there; the Iranians, for their part, insist that they have every right under the NPT to conduct such activities for peaceful uses and that interference with that right would constitute an intolerable assault on their sovereignty.

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