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'From Bushehr to the Bomb'

5:16 PM, Dec 6, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
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The Wall Street Journal editors write:

Last Sunday marked the 70th anniversary of the world's first controlled nuclear reaction, which took place under the bleachers of the old Stagg Field at the University of Chicago. Also last Sunday, the Journal reported that the U.S. had stepped up its spying on Iran's nuclear reactor at Bushehr after Iran had unexpectedly removed fuel rods containing between 22 and 220 pounds of weapons-grade plutonium.

The distance between civilian nuclear power and an atomic weapon, as the early nuclear pioneers understood, can be short. Now the Obama Administration is being forced to learn that lesson all over again.

For years, U.S. officials have insisted that the Russian-built reactor at Bushehr posed a negligible proliferation risk. Instead, they concentrated nearly all their attention on Iran's efforts to enrich uranium. At the same time, the U.S. bought Iran's argument that the country was within its legal rights to operate "peaceful" facilities such as Bushehr, never mind the question of why an oil-rich state would spend billions on a reactor it didn't need.

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