RUSSIAN-IRANIAN NUCLEAR COOPERATION: 1992-2006
Nugzar Ter-Oganov, Research associate, the Center for Iranian Studies, Tel Aviv University (Tel Aviv, Israel)
Following the disintegration of the U.S.S.R., the Russian Federation, as a successor State, continued cooperation with Iran. From the start, it focused on the nuclear (including military) sphere. Thus, on 17 August, 1992, a bilateral agreement was signed on the peaceful use of nuclear energy, making provisions for the delivery to the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) of two VVER 440 reactors. On 8 January, 1995, Viktor Mikhailov, the Russian atomic energy minister at the time; and Reza Amrollahi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and the country’s vice president, signed a $800 million contract, in accordance with which the Russian Federation was to complete the construction of the first 1,000 MW light water reactor at the Bushehr nuclear power plant (NPP) in four and a half years.
As for the contract’s legitimacy and its compliance with the norms of international law, according to Russian experts Vladimir Orlov and Alexander Vinnikov, it was flawless and complied with the nonproliferation requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), as was repeatedly stated by V. Mikhailov. In addition to that, the sides signed a secret protocol to the contract, on further negotiations between Tehran and Moscow about wide ranging cooperation in the nuclear sphere. In accordance with one of its provisions, Russia agreed to train Iranian specialists at its nuclear research centers, provide assistance to Tehran in mining uranium ore, and supply it with gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment. Several hundred Iranian nuclear scientists were trained at higher educational establishments in Russia, including at the Novovoronezh NPP training center, to operate the future NPP. In January 1995, V. Mikhailov and the IRI signed a protocol of intent emphasizing Russia’s readiness to conduct negotiations on the contract on construction of the centrifuge plant for uranium enrichment. As it turned out later, Mikhailov had signed the protocol without the knowledge of the Russian government. Nevertheless, the stage was set for full-scale nuclear cooperation, including in such a sensitive sphere as uranium enrichment, enabling Iran to weaponize its nuclear program.
The two parties also reached agreement on Russian nuclear fuel deliveries to Iran. In August 1995, a 10-year contract was signed on delivery of nuclear fuel, produced at……….