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Iran Admits Failure to Report Nuclear Technology

Iran has acknowledged that it failed to report its possession of a design for an advanced uranium enrichment centrifuge, the New York Times reported today. The concession follows reports yesterday that International Atomic Energy Agency officials had discovered the design as part of their investigation into Iran’s nuclear program and the international smuggling network that provided equipment and technology to Tehran, Tripoli and Pyongyang (see GSN, Feb. 12; Sanger/Broad, New York Times, Feb. 13).

Iranian officials admitted having the documents only after IAEA officials presented them with “unassailable” evidence, according to the Washington Post. The designs are for a P-2 gas centrifuge, a design that operates with much greater efficiency than an earlier version which Iran admitted last year to installing at a previously secret uranium enrichment facility.

IAEA officials have unearthed no evidence that Iran has actually built any P-2 centrifuges, according to the Post.

“This is not an indication of a significant new capability, but it is something that will cause people to question Iran’s good faith,” said a Europe-based diplomat.

Late last year, Tehran publicly admitted to conducting secret nuclear activities for nearly two decades, although Iranian officials have insisted that they were seeking to acquire technology for peaceful purposes only.  Following an October meeting with European Union officials, Iran agreed to suspend its enrichment operations and to disclose the full extent of its nuclear activities (see GSN, Oct. 21, 2003; Joby Warrick, Washington Post, Feb. 13).

In discussions with IAEA officials about the recent discoveries, Iran denied that it had tried to deceive the agency, the Times reported, and some Western experts familiar with the issue said Iran could be telling the truth (Sanger/Broad, New York Times).

The revelation drew criticism from U.S. officials, however, who reaffirmed the U.S. assessment that Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons.

“There is no doubt in our mind that Iran continues to pursue a nuclear weapons program,” Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said yesterday. “They have not been fully forthcoming,” he added (Warrick, Washington Post).

“This is another act of Iranian deception,” said Undersecretary of State John Bolton, attending a Berlin security conference yesterday. “It does not lead to any feeling of security that Iran is carrying through on its commitment to suspend enrichment activity,” he said (Benoit/Khalaf, Financial Times, Feb. 13).

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi, however, denied that Iran has weapon ambitions.

“Basically, we do not think that a nuclear weapon is going to bring us more security,” he said yesterday. “It is not part of our doctrine,” he added (Sanger/Broad, New York Times).

The new disclosures are certain to be a hot topic at the next meeting of the IAEA’s Board of Governors, scheduled to begin early next month.

That timeline “gives the Iranians three weeks to come up with some accounting for their behavior,” said Gregg Sullivan, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs Bureau. “There’s time for some diplomacy there,” he said.

So far, the agency board has elected not to refer Iran’s nuclear situation to the U.N. Security Council, but that option will again be under consideration, Sullivan said (see GSN, Nov. 26, 2003).

“I can’t say we’re going to charge in and go to the Security Council, but that’s always a possibility if the behavior of the Iranians isn’t demonstrating respect for the IAEA’s authority,” he said (Efron/Frantz, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 13).

Russian Spent-Fuel Agreement

Meanwhile, Iran and Russia were edging closer to signing a nuclear fuel supply agreement for the power reactor Russia is building in Iran at Bushehr. The agreement would require Iran to return the fuel to Russia after its useful life in the reactor expires (see GSN, Dec. 15, 2003).

“I think in about two weeks all outstanding issues will be settled, that is, by the end of February,” said Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev, who added that he hoped to sign the agreement during a scheduled visit to Tehran in late March.

“The United States has criticized us and will continue to criticize us,” he said. “They say Iran seeks nuclear weapons under the cover of our peaceful technology transfer. But we keep telling them they’ve got that wrong. We think we abide by all international laws,” Rumyantsev added (Reuters/Moscow Times, Feb. 13).

NTI Analysis

  • CNS Global Incidents and Trafficking Database

    March 19, 2014

    Providing free and open access to centralized information on nuclear and other radioactive material that has been lost, stolen, or is otherwise out of regulatory control, the new Global Incidents and Trafficking Database and Report prepared by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) offers researchers and policymakers a unique resource to assess the nature and scope of nuclear security risks.

  • Multinational Spent Fuel Disposal: Nonproliferation Challenges and Opportunities

    July 13, 2013

    This paper explores the challenges and success stories in dealing with the "back-end" of the nuclear fuel cycle, drawing from the “NTI-CSIS New Approaches to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle” expert group deliberations and recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.

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This article provides an overview of Iran's historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

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