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 65.

    This issue of Iran and nuclear - whether nuclear power stations for energy or enrichment - has been rumbling on for over a decade. France is indirectly, heavily involved in Iran in selling this technology behind the scenes, as do other countries.

    All 'publicy declared' sanctions against Iran simply fuel the internal Iranian propaganda machine which feeds off manufactured fear already.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    10 years ago, this was said by an Iranian cleric -

    TEHRAN 14 Dec. (IPS) One of Iran’s most influential ruling cleric called Friday on the Muslim states to use nuclear weapons against Israel, assuring them that while such an attack would annihilate Israel, it would cost them [Muslims] "damages only".

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    I'm amazed how these debates always seem to drag out so many vieled anti-semitic comments. I'm slightly less shocked that the BBC moderators allow them, in the name of 'free speech' no doubt.

    The fact that Israel's head of state has never threatened a war of genocide, while Iran's has, seems lost on the these people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    The last time Iran directly attacked another nation the USA wasn't even a nation. If Israel is allowed to have nuclear weapons then why isn't another nation within that region allowed. Israel is more of a security threat to that region than Iran is.

    This is just propaganda to whip the people into a frenzy like when we where duped into going into war with Iraq and Libya.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    I would also add to my previous comment that Iran is a 'rational' actor. It knows full well that if it were ever to use nuclear weapons first then it would surely be subject to a huge response resulting in its destruction. The only conclusion you can draw from this is that it seeks to acquire weapons for defensive purposes. Finally it would be far better not to have any such weapons anywhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Another excuse for war games,oh the double standards

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    12 Minutes ago

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

    The USA is capable of producing all the oil it needs itself but prefers to conserve its own stocks. That stock will be very valuable when everyone elses has run out

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    One has to suspect that 'fixers' in Jerusalem will be pushing this story as hard as they can. How predictable
    What IS predictable is that Islamaphiles are content to overlook the armegeddon scenario of a nutty fundamentalist dictatorship having nuclear weapons, in their pathetic eagerness to have a dig at Israel.

    Iran, a nuclear power? Lunacy.
    They must be stopped

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Any mention of the Israeli Nuclear Arsenal...? Nope. Well done BBC - stick to that hymn sheet...

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Not sure this is not all US inspired hype, but if they do get one we should send them another one free of charge, special delivery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Iran's nuclear programme is now probably the most closely examined on earth but there is still no good evidence they are weaponizing. At most, they're going for the 'latency' option like Japan and Germany -the ability to produce a weapon at short notice if threatened.

    A handful of Iranian warheads -which is all it could be- would be a deterrant against the US attempts to control the region.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Iran as well as any other countries with a desire for developing nuclear weapon capability should proudly and clearly announce it to gain international supports. ALL COUNTRIES should have EQUAL rights to possess or not to possess nuclear weapons!!!! The Nuke-Gangsters will never say no to their own programs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    its cute, everyone thinks Israel is the bad guy. Reality is: it's all talk. Look at the facts: Pakistan and India hate each other, both have nukes, both dont fire. N. Korea hates pretty much everyone, they dont fire. Iran if they even are able to produce a nuke, wont fire. People hating on Israel are just haters. People hating on the US are just haters.Development of a nuke is purely for ego...

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Many people don't see the acts committed by Iran because they have always used proxies for their 'war' against the west and Israel.

    Lebanon is now controlled by Iran's Hazbollah with full control over the government. Syria can keep killing civilians thanks to Iran propping them up. Hamas funded and armed by Iran. The Taliban supplied by Iran. Many British troops lost their lives because of Iran.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Looks like the military industrial complex are feeling the pinch too and are out job-seeking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Here we go again - the BBC is already calling this the 'Iran Nuclear Crisis'. Lets whip everyone into a frenzy, force people to take sides and voice opinions based on biased and one-sided reporting.

    Leave this to the people best placed to deal with these things please - the biased and one sided world leaders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    The middle east are right to be scared of this appauling excuse of a nation, namely USA, and should get ready to defend themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    I still find it highly hipocritical that the large 5 powers are allowed nuclear weapons, but Iran is not.

    All this sabre rattling is not going to give the paranoid Iranian leadership the warm fuzzy feeling they need to disband the process. If a course of action is not working, is it not time to try a non confrontational, different approach?

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    WW1 started becuase there were superpowers both using each others army as a deterrent and whats stopping any European leader taking power and deciding actually they really fancy some genocide, its happened before so the west has no right to be hypocritical.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    From A country that has thousands of Nuclear warheads, hipocrites


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