Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

By Banafsheh Zand & Kaveh Taheri

When you look at the facts, it’s bizarre that Iran wants nuclear energy. The Islamic Republic, and hence its people, would be far better off pursuing non-nuclear alternatives, at least in terms of the economy.

The current regime’s slogan, “Nuclear Energy Is Our Unarguable Right,” is not a new sentiment. “This idea goes back to 1950s, when Iran [for the first time] became interested in using nuclear energy, although, at the time, it was only limited to university research programs”, says Ardeshir Zahedi, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs under the Shah between the years 1966-73. The Shah believed that with the large exploitation of petroleum, Iran would one day have to purchase oil for its own needs, Zahedi says.

We’ve come a long way since then. Tehran has spent billions of dollars to develop heavy water reactors, production plants, uranium enrichment plants, and military sites. Compliance with agreements not to engage in weapon-related work is sketchy at best. Just 2% of electricity production is from the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, according to the Tasnim news agency report, in April 2016, citing the CEO of the plant.

The real reason for all the spending on nuclear, is military. That’s not paranoid Western conjecture. “If there is a way that an oppressed person can instill terror and fear into the hearts of such disbelievers, this form of terror is permissible and is sacred. I repeat, this form of terrorism is sacred”, says Hassan Abbasi the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp Commander. Abbasi’s political vision is based on “aggressive approach against the west” and “no compromising on nuclear issues.”

It’s a shame because Iran could be rich in energy and so help its people, many of whom now struggle to survive.

Look at the amazing alternatives available.

Iran’s current output of 75,000 mega-Watts comes overwhelmingly from non-nuclear sources and is used to supply the country’s businesses and people. Each residential customer in Iran uses about 2,500 kWh per year in their home, or around three times the 600 kWh global per capita average,  according to a 2015 Bargh News report.

Coal, Natural Gas, Fossil

Four-fifths of the current total output comes from thermal plants that burn fossil fuels. Such as coal, natural gas, and diesel fuel. They aren’t renewable, and Iran doesn’t mine much coal. just up to 2.7 million tons in 2015, according to the IRGC-run Fars News, on September 9, 2015.

Hydro

Around 16% of output comes from hydro-electric power plants. Hydro is a low-price, renewable energy source. It is generated from rivers, which are the most stable source of energy on the globe. The reason that there isn’t more output from hydro is that the regime has mismanaged the country’s water resources. Without well-managed rivers, and damns, more hydro simply isn’t possible. But again, maintenance of hydro infrastructure requires money and time and doesn’t get you nuclear weapons. So, thus far there hasn’t been a push in that direction.

Solar

Slightly less than 3% of output comes from the sun. “Iran has vastly sunny expanses; it also has two deserts in the center that can supply more solar energy to Iran than it needs,” writes Iranian scholar Manda Zand Ervin in an American Thinker column. “The people of Iran are vocally concerned about their environment and there are plenty of capable scientists to establish a forest of solar energy in the desert.” So far the efforts in this area have been modest. Iranian Minister of Energy Hamid Chitchian recently unveiled two 7-megawatt solar power plants, one at an estimated cost of $17 million, in Hamadan Province, and the second, 330 km outside of Tehran has been launched, according to state-run news agencies. The much-needed equipment to develop the solar plants, including low voltage panels, were manufactured domestically, and the construction was completed within six months, revealed to an IRNA correspondent on February 4, 2017, by Reza Teimouri, head of Hamedan Provincial Utilities Distribution Co. So in short, the regime could have developed a lot more solar if it wasn’t spending like drunken sailors on its nuclear ambitions.

Other

Iran also has the potential to generate electricity from Biomass, Geothermal Energy, Tidal Power in the both Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf. An Iranian expert of science and technology designed a native product of a simultaneous extraction energy system of power and water from the sea called “Persian Gulf System,” according to a January-dated IRNA report.

So there is clear opportunity for cheap new energy production is relatively short order. Contrast those opportunities with the fact that there are no big plans for nuclear power. At least none have been presented to the IAEA, which the Iranian regime is required to do to keep in complaince on its nuclear agreememt.

It should be obvious that the regime looks for its nuclear capabilities to challenge world peace, not to use as a peaceful means of nuclear power. How can we expect a practical solution for peace while desires for actual power production is a ruse?

Zand is a New York-based Iranian journalist and researcher. Taheri is a Turkey-based Iranian journalist and human rights activist.