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 125.

    Digbic78, i think what you mean is "just what the world needs at this juncture,another fundamentalist religious state with nukes" as i think you'll find Israel already has them, and lets not forget, that mad State thinks they've got God on their side too....if theres any bombing to be done, the US had better disarm both of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    True, but after 30 years of Islamic revolution media - there are also many who believe what they hear about the Holocaust etc.

    Let's hope there won't be many civilian casualties with strikes being limited to nuclear sites.
    I have had the privilege of visiting Iran in 2009 The number of times I was taken quietly aside and implored not to judge Iran by her government

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    The sooner someone gives the West a kicking the better. Not that I believe the East is better, simply that we are vile. A good, egalitarian thrashing for everyone in the West would be nice to see for a change rather than merely for the less advantaged within it. Go ahead Iran and make a bomb. Let it acid rain for 40 days and 40 nights.

    For those who care im a White British, Atheist.?

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    Have war with Iran,install Western backed Despot Dictator.Dictator bites hand that feeds it.This is what happens in our world,look through historical facts.

  • Comment number 121.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    The run of the mill arab people are a warm and friendly race. I know because I have been to that part of the world. Similarily the Israeli people too. However the fact remains that Iran is run and governed by an alarmingly bellicose and belligerant theocracy whose only apparent goal is to subjucate its people. Iwouldnt give an arsonist a firecracker so why give these lunatics nukes!

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    I have had the privilege of visiting Iran in 2009 The number of times I was taken quietly aside and implored not to judge Iran by her government was matched only by the number of times I implored Iranians not to judge Britain by our own. When referring to "Iran", news reports (and commenters) would do well to differentiate between a few powerful right-wingers and the actual feeling on the street.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.


    Remember the "religious obligations" set out in the Koran for Muslims (like Mohamed ElBaradei) to help other Muslims (to the exclusion of 'infidels'). Especially those conducting 'jihad'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    This echo's Iraq all over again - which of course was full of WMD's!! Even if Iran does develop nuclear weapons - Israel have openly said that they have considered attacking them and the USA would jump straight on the band wagon. Why shouldn't they be allowed to protect themselves?

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    just what the world needs at this juncture,a fundamentalist religious state with nukes.I hope the israelis and the yanks bomd the installation into dust

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Russia commented that the report contains nothing new but is phrased in terms that the UN wanted to hear
    However,Israel is known for being trigger happy and relentless;and has no friends in the world except the US;where Obama finds Netanyahu an irritant.So we should all be afraid. Depending on Russian/Chinese stance and such allies Iran can muster,this could be the front end of WW3.Let's hope not

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    105.Bob Smyth

    "Madness. Perhaps a mushroom cloud or two will make it clear?"

    No. We don't want to nuke Iran; we just don't want Iran to have nukes, simply because the country is unstable, and the powers that be in Iran, and their friends and proxies cannot be trusted with a dangerous weapon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Israel is alleged to have had nukes since the 1960's, which means they have been through wars and invasions by a multi-nation Arab army and still not used the bomb. Israel has proved itself to be a responsible nuclear power - but the most important thing is that they have a democracy, which means there isn't just one man in charge of the bomb, but a proper chain of command with checks and balances

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    The government of Iran is comprised of a bunch of religious loonies, but so is that of Israel. Iran speaks strongly in its foreign affairs but when was the last time it actually attacked another country? Israel on the other hand has attacked numerous countries, and is constantly engaged in military action, yet it has hundreds of nuclear weapons, and has refused to sign the non-proliferation treaty

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    C'mon people WMD's??? are we really that blind.....

    Fact: iran over 200yrs without invading another country.
    Fact: USA's war machine has been busy KILLING since the end of WW2 and remain the only country to date to use a nuke.
    iraq WMD's, 911, NWO????
    Do your own research draw your own conclusions.
    You cant trust the media THEY have lied to us before and will continue doing so.
    time to wake up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    So that's 2 down in the shape of Afghanistan and Iraq.

    The 4 left I believe are Venezuela, Iran, Syria and North Korea. We can tick Iran/Syria off soon. They'll have a world bank in every nation soon enough.

  • Comment number 109.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    The real issue is do we really think they will develop nuclear arms and does it matter? In the Middle East, it’s clear if you have a nuclear weapon you’re not going to get invaded. We’re not going to bomb North Korea or Pakistan who’s got a bomb. So it’s quite logical for any Muslim power, if you want to prevent invasion or attack by the west is to get hold of a nuclear bomb. Just one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Why should anyone expect a balanced view from Auntie Beeb is beyond me. Let's face it, when it comes to news about the Middle East or Israel, BBC is nothing more nor less than a mouthpiece for the foreign office who in turn dance to the tune of US.
    If you want unbiased news on international affairs, watch Aljazeera, Russia Today, CNN etc. Truth lies somewhere in between. Certainly not at the Beeb

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    The Iran apologists and Israel obsessives keep telling us there's no proof of Iran's guilt and at the same time claim Israel has them. Well, if we're going to play that game - then there's no proof Israel has them either.


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