Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Iran on Verge of Achieving Nuke Capacity: Report
Data slated for publication this week by the International Atomic Energy Agency indicates that Iran has passed every crucial milestone in a possible effort to develop a nuclear bomb, the Washington Post reported on Sunday (see GSN, Nov. 4).
The forthcoming Iran safeguards assessment from IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano provides details on what appears to be a clandestine scientific initiative more sophisticated, more productive and wider in scope than is generally believed, according to the Post. The United States and other countries suspect that Iran's nuclear program is geared toward weapons development; Tehran insists the effort is strictly peaceful.
Experts in Iran labored in a number of areas over much of the previous decade -- with the exception of a period in 2003 -- to acquire critical capabilities necessary to assemble and vet a nuclear warhead suited for deployment on an Iranian long-range missile, Institute for Science and International Security head David Albright said.
“The program never really stopped,” Albright said in briefing slides, obtained by the Post, describing key IAEA findings and presented last week to intelligence personnel. “After 2003, money was made available for research in areas that sure look like nuclear weapons work but were hidden within civilian institutions.”
Taking into account all related data provided to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, IAEA experts have determined that Iran “has sufficient information to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device” with a core of weapon-grade uranium, Albright said in the closed-door meeting. Findings suggest the nation established a methodical, routinized bid to acquire every capacity necessary in bomb assembly, tapping domestic and international sources for needed knowledge, the expert said.
“The (intelligence) points to a comprehensive project structure and hierarchy with clear responsibilities, time lines and deliverables,” said Albright, according to a record of his remarks. Two European envoys verified the briefing's specifics.
Data received by the U.N. organization establishes former Soviet atomic expert Vyacheslav Danilenko as a key player in Iran’s acquisition of schematics for an R265 generator, a hollow aluminum structure lined with detonators for initiating the fission reaction in a nuclear explosion. Danilenko provided support to Iran for no less than five years following his recruitment by the Iranian Physics Research Center in the 1990s, and he provided scientific reports and verbal guidance for building and vetting a detonation component believed to have been included in an Iranian warhead plan, said two officials privy to unreleased IAEA information.
U.N. inspectors pushed relatively hard for Danilenko's assistance because his contribution in Iran was judged to be central, according to the two officials. The expert said he believed he was only aiding peaceful programs, they added.
No indications have emerged that Moscow was aware of Danilenko's role, the Post reported. North Korea and former top Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan also appear to have supported Iranian efforts, envoys and armament specialists said (Joby Warrick, Washington Post, Nov. 6).
The 35-nation IAEA Board of Governors is expected to receive photographs taken from space of a structure the agency believes to be a massive steel chamber for conducting nuclear weapon-linked combustion experiments, the Associated Press reported quoted diplomatic officials as saying.
Western nations hope the IAEA document will prompt the agency's governing board to again refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which has already adopted four resolutions aimed at curbing Iran's disputed atomic activities. Alternatively, the powers could seek a March deadline for Iran to better assist the IAEA investigation of the nation's nuclear program. Afterward, Tehran might be sent back to the Security Council.
Iran last week received around 12 pages of information to be appended to the report on its purported suspected weapons activities, one of the envoys said, adding Tehran had initially declined to take the information (George Jahn, Associated Press/CBS News, Nov. 4).
"These documents are baseless and non-authentic," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told reporters on Saturday. The material's publication would place the U.N. nuclear watchdog's objectivity in doubt, Iran's Fars News Agency quoted him as saying (Fars News Agency, Nov. 5).
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