UN nuclear agency IAEA: Iran 'studying nuclear weapons'

The reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran - 26 October 2010 Russia helped Iran build its Bushehr nuclear power plant

The UN's nuclear watchdog says it has information indicating Iran has carried out tests "relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device".

In its latest report on Iran, the IAEA says the research includes computer models that could only be used to develop a nuclear bomb trigger.

Correspondents say this is the International Atomic Energy Agency's toughest report on Iran to date.

Tehran condemned the findings as politically motivated.

"This report is unbalanced, unprofessional and prepared with political motivation and under political pressure by mostly the United States," said Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the IAEA.

It was "a repetition of old claims which were proven baseless by Iran in a precise 117-page response, " he added.

Iran says its nuclear programme is solely to generate civilian power.

The BBC's Bethany Bell, in Vienna, has examined the IAEA's latest quarterly report on Iran's nuclear programme.

She says the report gives detailed information - some of it new - suggesting that Iran conducted computer modelling of a kind that would only be relevant to a nuclear weapon.

The report, published on the Institute for Science and International Security website, notes that some of this research, conducted in 2008-09, is of "particular concern", our correspondent says.


The 25-page IAEA report is written in technical, deliberately undramatic language. But some of its findings are clear.

The report says that Iran has carried out activities "relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device".

But on first reading, the report does not state that Iran is actually building a nuclear weapon.

The report lists in detail what it believes Iran has been doing in secret. These activities include conducting computer modelling, developing a detonator, and testing high explosives.

The IAEA suggests that some of Iran's activities are only applicable to nuclear weapons research - in other words, there is no innocent explanation for what Iran is doing.

The agency stresses that the evidence it presents in its report is credible and well-sourced.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dismissed the IAEA as puppet of the United States. His government has already declared that its findings are baseless and inauthentic.

"The application of such studies to anything other than a nuclear explosive is unclear to the agency," the report says.

'Credible evidence'

The report highlights:

  • Work on fast-acting detonators that have "possible application in a nuclear explosive device, and... limited civilian and conventional military applications".
  • Tests of the detonators consistent with simulating the explosion of a nuclear device
  • "The acquisition of nuclear weapons development information and documentation from a clandestine nuclear supply network."
  • "Work on the development of an indigenous design of a nuclear weapon including the testing of components."

The report continues: "The information indicates that prior to the end of 2003 the above activities took place under a structured programme. There are also indications that some activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device continued after 2003, and that some may still be ongoing."

The report stops short, our correspondent adds, of saying explicitly that Iran is developing a nuclear bomb.

It says the information is "credible", and comes from some of the IAEA's 35 member states, from its own research and from Iran itself.

The report urges Iran "to engage substantively with the agency without delay for the purpose of providing clarifications."

'No serious proof'

Ahead of the report's release, there had been speculation in Israeli media about potential strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities.

A senior US official said Washington would look at applying more pressure on Iran if it did not supply answers to the questions raised in the report, Reuters news agency said.

Start Quote

The White House could hardly sound less bellicose... The last thing Barack Obama wants is an attack”

End Quote Mark Mardell BBC Washington correspondent

"That could include additional sanctions by the United States. It could also include steps that we take together with other nations," the unnamed official said.

The UN Security Council has already passed four rounds of sanctions against Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment. Highly-enriched uranium can be processed into nuclear weapons.

China and Russia are unlikely to support further sanctions against Iran, the BBC's Kim Ghattas says in Washington.

Russia said the IAEA report had caused rising tension and more time was needed to determine whether it contained new, reliable evidence of a military element to Iran's nuclear programme.

Experts say Iran is at least one year away, perhaps several, from being able to produce a nuclear bomb. Some believe Iran's leadership wants to be in a position to able to produce such a weapon on short notice.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    WMD! We've heard that before. All those lying PMs must be behind this report, may think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I juts had a brilliant idea!

    If it all kicks off in Iran then the US has the perfect reason to stay in Iraq!

    And this popped up just when they were about to withdraw the last trooper ;o)

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Fully agree with No_Main_Party_Vote.
    Israel: Already has the bomb.
    Iran: "The report stops short, our correspondent adds, of saying explicitly that Iran is developing a nuclear bomb."
    And--if I were in the same geopolitical situation with Isreal threatenting to attack me, I'd probably do the same as Iran, or at least go through the motions. Which is what Iran is apparently doing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Take a step back, see the way the world is moving, this is insane.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Why Iran is a threat? 2/2

    Iran: no nuclear weapons signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty
    Israel:Not a signatory of the non-proliferation treaty with an estimated 80-400 undeclared nuclear warheads

    No I am not anti-semitic! I am pointing out the facts about Israel and Iran and drawing you attention to the hypocrisy about how we deal with countries

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I dont see the problem with Iran having a nuclear deterant just like the west including Israel after all its Israel doing all the shouting about attacking Iran and using the tired argument of Iran wont let the IAEA inspect there nuclear program remember Isreal are not part of the IAEA and refuse to join.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    does T COMES DOWN 2THIS?
    Ahead of a widely-expected Israeli-led attack on Iran, Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, an elitist pro-Israeli lobbying firm, has been caught “briefing” the British mainstream media on how to present news items relating to Israel, bragging in a leaked email of how BBC & Sky editors “changed their narrative” on stories after meeting with BICOM reps

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Iran has always wanted to build the bomb - they are ruled by mad men.

    The Western powers are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

    I'd, therefore, rather they did something.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Is there oil in Iran??

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    "Is the USA getting low on oil again....disgusting"
    What a naive and pointless accusation. It is the typical braindead conspiracy theory viewpoint. Did it ever occur to you that no one trust nukes in the hands of the current Iranian leadership. Many people are nervous of every US president with a finger on the trigger, how much more should any one of us be about Iran's president.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Might be a good thing is Iran started a war as we then have a reason to invade them with 2 benefits:
    1. Wipe out a number of radical terrorists known to live in Iran.
    2. Plunder their oil to get Britain out of recession.

    No point Britain spending on arms if we don't use them especially during a credit crunch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    I think that it's very hypocritical of western countries to complain about Iran having nuclear weapons. How can the UK and US, etc have them, but then tell other countries that they aren't allowed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Until Israel is made accountable for have illegal nuclear weapons why should the rest of the world listern to anything the west has to say on the issue. The UK , France germany and USA helped build israel's nuke program. Iran has everyright to have nukes the same as every other country in the world,how else are they going to get on the UN Security Council . Its 1 rule for 1 and 1 rule for another.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    "The UN's nuclear watchdog says it has information indicating Iran has carried out tests" - Wow! Really?

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    The stage is set:

    A depression
    A rougue state building up it's arms.

    Now where have i seen that before????

    Roll on WWIII

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    The USG continually refuse the IG's offers of direct talks on all issues! In terms of this report, it is not unreasonable to suspect that it is designed to isolate Iran further - after all, we're been misled before. I tire of the double standards. End the policy of ambiguity in the region, particularly to the west of and perhaps consider removing the ring of permanent bases on thier doorstep.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Why Iran is a threat? 1/2

    Iran:1 defensive war against Iraq
    Israel:10 wars and several smaller conflicts 4 invasions in the last 35 years 1976,82,2006,08

    Iran:no territorial disputes
    Israel: 3 illegal occupations Golan heights,west bank,Gaza

    Iran:less than 200 in internal conflicts less than 2800 Iraqi civilians
    Israel:at least 17,200 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians since 1967

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    I would prefer nobody to have nuclear weapons but it is an extremely difficult argument to make saying we can have them because we are sensible people but you cannot because we think you are a bit barmy and might use them. That smacks of the west appointing itself as the worlds policeman and moral dictator again which causes half of the worlds problems as it is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Here we go again ... Are these Weapons of Mass Destruction by any chance ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    This is BAD news for all of us. I cannot understand why Russia and China put cynical business committments ahead of the safety of the World. No sensible person thinks Iran's government is benign and caring...Israel is not the only target. The Arab World will also be alarmed by this. The UN must stop this now..All our fates hang in the balance, it's that important.


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