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Science, People & Politics ISSN 1751598 (online) Issue One (JANUARY - MARCH)
Adopted by the UNSC on 20th July 2015, resolution 2231 applies the legal seal on a road map to full implementation of an agreement, reached mid 2015, which makes Iran's nuclear programme both civilian and transparent. If Iran sticks to what it has spent a number of years negotiating, nations will in future see for themselves that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons. As a result of the IAEA's report the sanctions against Iran, called for in previous UN resolutions, ended (see illustration on page 1).
As it says on the UN Security Council website: "Accordingly, the provisions of previous resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue have been terminated."
A large, geographically and culturally critical country, with size, know-how, and a location from which to threaten world peace if it chose, thus became a country in mid January 2016 which could erect its ballot boxes, and give its winning politicians the choice to pursue a sanction-free economic course with a civilian, not military, nuclear programme.
In other words, Iran is complying with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which entered into force in 1970, and was extended indefinitely in 1995. Many of the world's countries are Parties to the NPT. It aims, among other things, to prevent a nuclear-arms race which could, quite simply, destroy the world.
In future, because of compliance with UNSC resolution 2231, Iran's civilian nuclear programme -- if domestic politics are willing -- will develop under the watchful eye of the IAEA, which was founded in 1957 to promote and control peaceful nuclear technology. A plus for complying with the NPT is that a country has access to international know-how for the design and establishment of national nuclear power generation.
The well known difficulty which faced Iran, and which faces all nations interested in nuclear power, is that Uranium comes in more than one form, known as isotopes. These isotopes can be purified for electrical power generation, or to fuel nuclear bombs. On its website the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) provide a simple and accessible conceptual overview of the processes involved in extracting from their ore the Uranium isotopes, and then purifying one form - Uranium 235 - to the levels needed for either bombs or power stations. The critical step takes place in a gas centrifuge. Needless to say, the practise is much more complex than the FAS explanation suggests.
Uranium enrichment and gas centrifuge technology
The sanctions ended by the IAEA's report are like one which was passed in June 2010 (3). On that occasion 12 of the fifteen-strong UN Security Council voted to expand an arms embargo, and to tighten financial and shipping restraints in areas connected with proliferation of sensitive activity. The field for the latter is potentially quite wide, and what specifically was banned could, arguably, be as helpful to a country's civilian nuclear programme as what was not banned.
Though Iran has since passed through much, the country was one of the first to deposit its instrument of ratification of the NPT, doing so on 5th March, 1970.
In the first article the NPT enjoins those Parties which already have nuclear weapons not to faciltate a non-nuclear State's acquisition of nuclear weaponry. In the second article the non nuclear-weapon States signing the NPT agree not to receive nuclear
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Published Friday 26th February, 2016 22.00 GMT
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