Terry Jeffrey

American taxpayers not only helped fund Iran's nuclear program over the past decade, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office, but the State Department now "strongly opposes" diminishing the flow of U.S. money to the international agency that funneled the aid to Iran because the department fears -- among other things -- that doing so would "anger states in the developing world."

The offending organization is the International Atomic Energy Agency's Department of Technical Cooperation (TC), whose mission is to help nations develop "peaceful" applications of nuclear technology. About 25 percent of the TC's $80-million annual budget is provided by the U.S. State Department.

From 1997 through 2007, GAO said in a March 31 report, TC provided $55 million in aid to four nations -- Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba -- that State lists as sponsors of terror.

TC assisted Iran's light-water nuclear reactor project at Bushehr. And its secretariat also initially approved assistance for Iran's heavy-water nuclear reactor project at Arak, but the proposal was later aborted in the face of U.S. objections.

Iran's heavy-water project at Arak is a more direct nuclear proliferation threat than the light-water project at Bushehr because the Arak facility would produce plutonium that could be reprocessed for use in a nuclear bomb. The Bushehr light-water reactor project, however, is itself an indirect nuclear proliferation threat.

"For example, 'nonsensitive' technology associated with the design and operation of civilian, light-water power reactors might prove useful to countries seeking to design and build a plutonium production reactor," said the GAO report. "TC projects providing such technology might therefore raise proliferation concerns. Other 'nonsensitive' skills and expertise that states acquire through TC assistance might provide basic knowledge useful to weapons, such as radioactive materials handling, familiarity with chemical processes and properties of nuclear materials, and use of various instruments and control systems."

The GAO report said State confirmed that TC aided Iran's development of the light-water reactor at Bushehr. "Regarding Iran," said GAO, "State reported in 2007 that three TC projects in that country were directly related to the Iranian nuclear power plant at Bushehr."

Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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