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Iranian Nationalists and the Nuclear Issue

By: Mohsen Moshfegh

There is a hotly debated issue in the Iranian intellectual community these days that have immense implications for the future of our nation. The issue is the Islamic Republic's stubborn and somewhat secretive efforts to construct and implement nuclear power plants. The opinions on this issue among the Iranian intellectuals are generally divided into three distinct viewpoints. One is what I call, for the lack of a better term, the concerned nationalist viewpoint. This view advocates that under no circumstance the Islamic Republic should be allowed to develop and fuel the nuclear installations under construction, because they will potentially lead to the regime's achievement of nuclear weapons capability, which would be a disaster for the world security and the future of our nation. The second is what I term the well-intentioned nationalist viewpoint. This view advocates that because of our future energy requirements we need to develop these nuclear installations. Their justification is based on the assumption that we will be running out of oil in the very near future. The third is what I term the pseudo-nationalist viewpoint. Holders of this view don't bother much with wrapping their true intentions in benign cloaks like our future energy needs. They essentially argue from a sovereignty standpoint that since other countries in the region, particularly Israel, have developed nuclear capability, Iran should also follow the path to develop nuclear weapons in order to defend and protect herself. To this group, our future energy requirements are really secondary, and the thrust of their argument is based on their perceived threats from other nuclear powers in the region. I believe where most Iranians will eventually fall on this issue will be one of, if not the single most important decision that our nation will make to shape its future. Being among the ranks of the concerned nationalists, I will try in this article to convince our middle-of-the-road intellectuals, the well-intentioned nationalists, to see the lack of justification in trying to meet our future energy needs by nuclear power, and the dangers and futility of the pseudo-nationalist viewpoint in pursuing nuclear weapons capability.

I begin by discussing what seems to be the major concern of the well-intentioned nationalists and also used by the pseudo-nationalists from time to time as additional justification, i.e., the need for alternative sources of energy. Simply stated, the fact is we don't need them. Contrary to what is claimed by the advocates of developing the nuclear option, Iran is not running out of oil in any near future. Our country has been blessed with vast, almost inexhaustible, reserves of oil and natural gas. Our proven oil reserves are estimated at about 90 billions of barrels. This means that if we kept to our year 2000 level of production and pumped around 4.0 million barrels per day, we will run out of this reserve in about 65 years, give or take a year. If we were to increase our utilization gradually to what is generally estimated to be our 2015 level of production, i.e., 5.7 million barrels per day, and sustain that level into the future, we will have exhausted our reserve in about 50 years. Or, if the world's state of the economy and its demand for oil warranted, we can choose to continue this gradual increase at the same rate beyond 2015 until we reach a whopping production level of 6.2 million barrels per day, and then sustain that level into the future. In this scenario, we will be running out of our reserves in 45 years. Of course, these high levels of production can only be achieved and maintained if we can get the necessary technology to rehabilitate our wells and improve our conveyance and export systems. But that is a different issue, and has nothing to do with our proven levels of reserve. Wait, that's not all! To put your minds even further at ease, these are just the explored oil reserves of our country. These numbers do not reflect our share of the vast ocean of oil underlying the Caspian Basin. Neither do these numbers take into account our gargantuan reserves of natural gas, which by some estimates are second in the world, only to those of Russia. So, relax my friends, our nation is not about to run out of oil anytime soon.

To be sure, our oil is definitely a finite resource with limits, and undoubtedly we will run out of this option to provide for our livelihood some day. But, aside from the question of why we are so economically impotent that we have to rely so heavily on the auctioning off of our fossil fuel and other raw materials to sustain ourselves, I'd like to assure all of my dear compatriots that we have sufficient oil and natural gas reserves to carry us into the next century, if we used them wisely. Let me also assure you that I am not just throwing these numbers around, and I can provide any skeptic reader with the sources and documents that I used in my research.

Now, to the next issue that deserves some attention by our well-intentioned nationalists. It is a very sensitive issue, dealing with the level of technological development in our current workforce in Iran. In bringing up this aspect of the discussion I am depending on the ability of my friends to use their sense of fairness and realism to prevent any misunderstanding of my contentions. I, like most of you, love my country, am proud to be an Iranian, and believe that our nation is endowed by God almighty with a great deal of natural talent and ability. We are undoubtedly descendants of the most intelligent sections of the human race, as we have proved it time and again in our glorious history. No one can ever deny the natural abilities of our nation. But, I also believe that due to some historical causes, the level of technological development in our country has not reached the necessary threshold for our workforce to be able to handle the safe operation and maintenance of such advanced and sensitive systems as nuclear power plants. Highly industrialized nations, such as the Americans and the Russians had to deal with the disastrous consequences of nuclear power plant accidents. There are great risks involved in operating such sophisticated equipment and systems, and if the chance of a reactor core meltdown is a remote possibility in the United States and Europe, with their advanced workforce, it is a practical certainty with our untrained and under-developed workforce. It would be an accident waiting to happen with catastrophic consequences. So, why are we so stubbornly insisting on taking this chance? We don't need to. Why subject multiple generations of our citizens to the dangers of radiation when we don't have to? Why do we insist on playing this futile power game, antagonize the world, deprive ourselves from the benefits of the friendship by many important nations on earth? Why? Just because we are a sovereign nation, and we want to? Is this sane? You know, the real shame and irony in this is that our stubborn insistence on getting into this now, regardless of how secure the rest of the world feels about our claims of benign intentions, will only postpone the day that we will truly be able to handle such sophisticated technologies. They will block our every attempt to get our hands on the technologies that we need to end our dependence on oil by the excuse that they are dual technologies and have the potential of being used in nuclear weapons development. They will do everything in their power to deprive us from having our brilliant students and scientists take part in research and development in one of the most important aspects of modern science. Why must we do this to ourselves? Is this some kind of a stupid macho game we're playing with the world?

We Iranians know our own government better than anyone. We are familiar with the true intentions and the goals of the tyrants who have kidnapped the destiny of our nation for the past 25 years. My friends, let us not be fooled by the Islamic Republic's propaganda machine into believing that their attempts to construct these nuclear power plants is for any other purpose than to threaten the security of the world. These tyrants do not have the capability to see even one inch beyond their noses, let alone the ability to see and plan for our children and our nation for the next 40 or 50 years. Since when have these stone-age tyrants taken an interest in the future of our nation? Rest assured, that their attempts to achieve nuclear capability is derived not by any nationalist concerns, like yours or mine, but solely by their dangerous dream of owning an "Islamic bomb" to threaten and blackmail the industrialized nations of the world. And along with every true Iranian nationalist, I pray to God that they take this dream to their graves, soon.

For those of you who are genuinely concerned about the future state of our energy resources and even more importantly, our future economic survival, I have a better suggestion. Why don't we abandon our dangerous attempts of threatening the security of the world, quit our foolish games of antagonizing the rest of the world, tone down our stupid self-righteous rhetoric, become a genuinely peaceful nation, and then rightfully expect the rest of the world to assist us in developing more efficient use of our existing resources, as well as opportunities to participate in the science of developing renewable alternatives of energy? By choosing this route, we will not only postpone the day that our existing resources will run out, but more importantly, we will assure our rightful place in the ongoing advancements and scientific research in this vital field. It would not only be a lot cheaper and less dangerous to take the peaceful route, but would be the only possible way that we can guarantee our future economic development. Just imagine the prosperity and opportunity that such a peaceful approach and the resulting assistance and cooperation by the industrialized nations could bring about for our nation. Our brilliant and intellectually starving youth will not only be guaranteed a future with enough energy resources, but more importantly will be guaranteed a future in peace and prosperity, jobs and opportunities, economic and scientific research and development, and much more.

So, let me summarize it all in one short paragraph. Let us overthrow the tyrannical system that has imposed itself on us by force of terror and more recently, by falsely appealing to our sense of nationalism, replace it with a peaceful democratic system, and we will have a bright future ahead of us. Do otherwise; follow the nightmare that these tyrants are planning for us and as sure as day become a member of a devastated and bankrupt nation like Iraq. The choice is clear, and it is right in front of our eyes.

About the author:
Mohsen Moshfegh was born in Tehran in 1958. He holds a BS in Mechanical Engineer ing from Oklahoma University (1981) and Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering from UCLA (1988). He is married with two children and lives in San Francisco Bay Area whe re he works for Bechtel Engineering.

... Payvand News - 4/18/03 ... --

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