Yet Iran has claimed that its pursuit of nuclear power is a part of an attempt to diversify its energy assets to bolster its largely oil-dependent economy while making good use of its significant reserves of uranium ore. Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which it ratified in 1970 and which binds member countries to an agreement to develop, research, produce, and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only. However, in 2003 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran had during the preceding 18 years secretly pursued an uranium enrichment program. The NPT permits its members to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, albeit only with IAEA oversight, as the same technology used for producing fuel for nuclear power can be used for producing fuel for a nuclear weapon. The fact that Iran hid its enrichment program for 18 years has raised international concern that the true purpose of the program might be the development of a nuclear weapon. However, the Iranian leadership has continued to be vocal about efforts to enrich uranium, stating that nuclear power is necessary to sustain the level of energy consumed by Iran's booming population. Iran has a need for an alternative fuel that can curtail excessive imports of gasoline and electricity and unhealthy levels of oil consumption.
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