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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  • Comment number 45.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    chronojames said
    "If Israel attacks Iran then they should face the full force of UN retaliation and sanctions, just as any other country making an unprovoked attack would expect."

    Like when Israel bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear plant in 1981? With the benefit of hindsight we are all thankful that Israel did precisely that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Say what you like about the US & UK, but at least take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Nuclear weapons in the hands of a fanatical dictatorship is a scary prospect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Hopefully an Iran with Nuclear weapons will make Israel pay a bit more attention to serious negotiations to get the borders back to the 1967 ones. The area is dominated by Arab countries it is correct that Arab countries rule the roost in that area.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Too many people have been reading or influenced by The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

    It was a fake guys.

    Next you will all be quoting Mein Kampf.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Only if you were familiar with the term Taqiyya ― Islamic Principle of Lying for the Sake of Allah.
    I am an Iranian and will translate what was said recently:
    "We will have nuclear bomb, we will nuke Israel and if they attack us and even nuke us, no problem because then we all go to heaven and our 12th Imam Mahdi return"
    They sacrifice their own children in this path so don't trust them ..

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    When are people going to wake up! Iran is a highly belicose state that has gone on record of stating that the Holocaust did not happen. Given that mind set alone some of you think that they should have nukes??? Good grief!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Which country has been mostly threatened recently with comments such as 'all options are on the table'? If I were Iran I would be doing everything to build a deterrent to military action. After all they have seen how 'The West' works. I see Iran acquiring nuclear weapons capability at some point and then declaring it. This will be enough to deter any attack.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    If Israel attacks Iran then they should face the full force of UN retaliation and sanctions, just as any other country making an unprovoked attack would expect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Everyone knows they're after nuclear weapons. An Oil rich nation with 200+ years of Oil is secretly developing 'peaceful' nuclear energy under mountains?

    Let's remember that according to wikileaks, the Arab nations are just as terrified of a nuclear Iran as Israel and this will surely spark off a nuclear arms race.

    Iran has been a belligerent exporter of terrorism for 30 years. Enough is enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Israel has nuclear weapons so why can't Iran? Is Israel a law unto itself, where It goes around bombing attacking and assassinating whomever it pleases and nobody says anything? Is this a clear case of Whitehouse corruption by influential Jewish supporters?

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Any body care to guess what we are being prepared for?

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    It's unfortunate that so many of the comments here are strawmen.

    This is about what Iran are doing. What other countries are doing, or have done, isn't relevant.

    Some clarity wouldn't go amiss.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    No 21 - absolutely correct. The facts say it all.

    Iran - never taken military action and invaded another country.

    USA,UK,Israel - the real killers, invasions, war crimes, greed and corruption on vast scales, lies and murder.

    Anything you accuse Iran of has already be carried out 10 fold by the other three. Stop kidding yourselves they are the threat, it's us that's the treat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    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 30.

    Reports of this nature are akin to lighting the blue touch paper! I'm quite sure its all carefully managed by those following particular agendas, I'm guessing those that live in the shadows know what their doing....

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    credible evidence, were have we heard that before, I think we must be very careful,, we have a country in the guise of the UN ( USA) pointing a finger a nation who has the potential for Nuclear weapons.
    I am not in favour of the Nuclear detterant, but before the lack of debating maturity of the Major forces globally, USSR,US it served its purpose.
    Now the world is different, Or is it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Come on Alistair Campbell we need another of your dodgy 45 minutes dossiers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    How reliable is the 'evidence' alleging Iran's intent to create nuclear weapons?

    Look at the evidence from security sources used to justify the attack on Iraq, given we now know there were no 'weapons of mass destruction'.

    I don't trust the Iran government - but I don't trust the Israelis and their support among governments in the West, either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    One has to suspect that 'fixers' in Jerusalem will be pushing this story as hard as they can in the next 24 hours. How predictable

    It is not ideal and a shame countries still waste resources on such projects. However, we all know Israel has a nuclear capability so why are it's neighbours not allowed. Might help focus the mind a wee bit


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