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 85.

    @44 Martin1983

    A team of nuclear experts from Harvard inspected the Osirak site and concluded that it was not -and could not- have been used to produce nuclear weapons. It was a light water reactor, not a heavy water reactor like Israel's Dimona. In fact, as the US Duelfer report concluded in 2004 it was the Israeli bombing that accelerated Iraq's efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    And I suppose we are to believe its a complete coincidence they are also rich in natural resources (like Libya and Iraq)???

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Does the UN also link Israel to nuclear weapons also?

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    In any society, we control who can and who can't have things based on behaviour and history. You can't have a gun license if you have a history of mental illness and violence.

    The wide-eyed fanatics in Iran can't have nukes based on their history since 1979 of exporting terrorism and making bellicose/threatening speeches about their neighbours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Very interesting discussion. Most comments opposed to any kind of action against Iran or highlighting the hypocrisy and irrationality of the situation... yet all those comments somehow rated negative. Is somebody fiddling with the ratings?

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Couldn't agree with you more. A fundamentalist religious state should not have nuclear weapons. Especially when they have already stated "Israel should be wiped off the map." Not to mention the fact that they believe they will go to heaven for killing their "god's enemies".

    A very dangerous delusion indeed...

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Re #33 Muck
    It is relevant what other countries are doing! What possible right does one country have to say, "we're going to have this weapons, but you can't"?

  • Comment number 78.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    If there was 1% chance of them launching a nuke we would have to act. The difference between us having nukes and them having nukes is that our government is run by greed in which case you don't want to blow up trading partners and so on or destabilize other economies which effect your own. Where as Iran is based on extremist religious fundamentals, imagine 1944 with the other side having the nuke

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    The ground is being prepared for an Israeli strike against Iran.
    The aim, to ensure there is only one nuclear armed State in the ME and that's Israel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Libya problem solved?Afghanistan problem solved?Syria thousands being murdered &maimed,nowt done about that.Call me cynical,its the perfect excuse to embroil Iran into a war by helping the Syrian people.Everybody knowes Syria &Iran are best buddies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.


    SO WHAT?
    Can you not read?
    Or do you simply not understand?
    A Muslim cleric effectively says that the anhiliation of Israel by nuclear weapons is worth the deaths of many Muslims, and you say, "so what"?

    The world should be scared.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    I don't want Iran to have nuclear weapons, but I also don't think Israel should have them either. There's nothing Holy about that land.

    It's the total hypocrisy of the West towards the Middle East that stirs up all this hatred and polarization. And if Israel is stupid enough to attack Iran now, this will ignite the entire region once again. For those who think this is only about Iran, it's not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    When Israel loses patience with the dithering West and breaks another UN sanction and bombs Iran, it will kick off a chain of events that will directly lead to the end of the world.
    But what can we the 'little people' do about it? I don't want these idiots in Iran and Israel to destroy our planet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    @Rockabilly Red - Pointing out that Israel has had Nuclear Weapons for years is not anti-semitic, it's factual.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Only the truely naive and ignorant believe Iran is any threat whatsoever. The west just doesn't want any other country other than israel dictating to the rest of the middle east.Just because a country says crap against another does mean its going to act on it.North Korea has been saying it will wipe the west from existance for years and they have nukes but i guess their not muslim so not 'evil'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    There should be more discussion of Iran's security problem. It is routinely threatened by the superpower and by its regional proxy -a nuclear armed rogue state that flouts international law. The US has bases that surround Iran on three sides: Turkey, Iraq, Saudi, UAE, Oman, Pakistan & Afghanistan: with over 100K troops in the region since 1990. The US also likely supports MEK terrorists in Iran.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.


    SO WHAT?

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.


    I guess you forgot the Iran-Iraq war, or the bombings in Argentina. But that's OK, people tend to forget facts.
    Iran openly declared that it wants to destroy another nation, supports terrorist around the world, oppresses its own people, etc. No other nation, including the ones that have nukes, does that.
    For me that's enough to stop Iran from having WMD.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    If you want anti-semitism you only have to look at the mad monks running Iran right now


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