Iran sought to miniaturize a Pakistani nuclear weapon design
to fit on its ballistic missiles and continued working to raise the potential
power of the weapons at least until 2010, United Nations inspectors reported
today, citing “credible” intelligence from more than 10 countries.
Iran carried out “work on the development of an indigenous
design of a nuclear weapon including the testing of components,” the
International Atomic Energy Agency said Tuesday in a 15-page restricted
document. “Some activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive
device continued after 2003” and “some may still be ongoing.”
The document, drawing on eight years of collected evidence,
shows that Iran worked to redesign and miniaturize a Pakistani nuclear-weapon
design by using a web of front companies and foreign experts, according to the
report and an international official familiar with the IAEA’s investigation.
Such a warhead could be mounted on Iran’s Shahab-3 missile,
which has the range to reach Israel, according to the report.
“It is time for an unequivocal declaration that we will stop
Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability - by peaceful means if we
possibly can, but with military force if we absolutely must,” said Senator Joe
Lieberman, a Connecticut independent.
The IAEA’s conclusion that Iran continued weapons work until
at least until last year clashes with U.S. intelligence estimates that Tehran’s
government stopped pursuing a nuclear bomb in 2003. Until now, atomic
inspectors had only voiced concerns publicly about the “possible existence” of
weapons work in Iran. The new analysis is likely to heighten international
pressure on Iran.
The IAEA report “could increase the risk of a military
attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities” and therefore “justified a certain risk
premium on the price of oil,” Commerzbank wrote today in a research note.
Iran worked on high explosives design and the development of
a neutron generator, the part of an atomic bomb that generates a nuclear chain
reaction, according to the senior official.
“Iran embarked on a
four year program, from around 2006 onwards, on the further validation of the
design of this neutron source,” the IAEA report said, citing one member state
that shared information with inspectors.
The IAEA also revealed details of “large-scale high
explosives” experiments conducted near Marivan in 2003. The experiments, which
drew on technology shared by a Russian nuclear scientist, would have helped
Iran calibrate the explosive impact of a bomb’s uranium core, according to the
“The information comes from a wide variety of independent
sources, including from a number of member states, from the agency’s own
efforts and from information provided by Iran itself,” the report said.
Iran has told IAEA inspectors that evidence used against the
Gulf country was forged.
It is the first time that the IAEA has published a
comprehensive analysis of Iran’s nuclear-weapons work. Data before 2003 is more
comprehensive than information seen thereafter, according to the senior
official. The Vienna-based agency shared a copy of the information with Iranian
authorities before the report was published, the official said.
Iran increased its supply of 20 percent-enriched uranium to
73.7 kilograms from 70.8 kilograms reported in September at a pilot nuclear
facility in Natanz about 300km south of Tehran, the IAEA said. Iran has
produced 4,922 kilograms of uranium enriched to less than 5 percent compared
with 4,543 kilograms in the last IAEA report.
About 630 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, if further
purified, could yield the 15 kilograms to 22 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium
needed by an expert bomb maker to craft a weapon, according to the London-based
Verification Research, Training and Information Center, a non-governmental
observer to the IAEA that is funded by European governments.
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