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 185.

    Surely the example of forced regime change in Iraq should give the armchair strategists on HYS pause for thought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    The IAEA has not stated that the Iranians or Israelis have nuclear weapons, I am much more concerned what Cameron said last week about standing with the USA to defeat Iran we are broke and wars are very costly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    162. sindexter

    Do you fools actually think iran would be stupid enough to attack israel with nukes?


    No I don't.

    Quite the contrary.

    Since Israel likes to do everything in an extreme way, because it always gets away with it, and it likes showing who is boss, this will be a perfect excuse for them Nuke Iran and say it was self defence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    Ahmedinejab, is the most unbalanced idiotic leader in the Middle East, how he has survived this long I'll never know. However, if he continues to goad the West the USA will certainly pull no punches, if it is nuclear war he wants then the West can oblige, hopefully the innocent Iranians will try and oust him before a global catastrophe happens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    I don't think the west installed the Shah. Support him yes because he was at least friendly towards us. The current lot are not friendly with anyone that doesn't agree to them.Including their own people,many of whom are hung from cranes or stoned to death.
    Maybe they should try and get on with the rest of the world .

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    I'd be far more worried about Pakistan than Iran. Pakistan already have nuclear weapons, and have a far less stable government,

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    I have no idea what is true and what is spin. Little is credible after the Iraq lies. I know I don't want a country like Iran to have nuclear weapons and their right to have them is for me invalidated by their primitive bigotry and murder of minorities such as gay people. What to do though - I don't know. I can't see another war doing anything but harm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    This isn't good!

    However, nobody says anything about Israel having them, and they are the loosest cannon in the region!

    No wonder the Iranians think we are hypocrites!

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    80. MikyT
    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..

    And yet Israel has them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Oy vey, just this past week the former head of Israeli Mossad said that home grown extremism in the form of Zionism was a greater threat to Israel then the Iranians.

    Who knew? Media??

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    The danger signal is at red. Do we have to wait for the bang before we do anything? Iran is out of kilter with the rest of the world. Despite their rhetoric and "Blaming" the US, the culprit here is clearly Iran. The toys here are stunningly dangerous for the whole world. These toys need to be taken from Iran. NOW. Before it is too late.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    some comments have been removed, why is there not freedom in western countries when they talk of freedom of speech
    Freedom of speech comes with responsibility and laws on libel & slander.
    Have to say though, there is a lot more freedom to speak here in Britain than in many countries ruled by fundamentalist intolerent dictators in the name of the 'Religion of Peace'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    "So has the US and UK, for longer. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, Hamburg, Vietnam, Iraq, Libya"

    I find it appalling that people like you are so ignorant to history! At the time of Hiroshima, Nagasaki Nuclear effects were poorly understood and Hamburg and Dresden we were in a world war [WW2] and don't you remember the German bombing of Coventry and London can you spell Hypocrite

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    I don't know, any more than you do dear reader, who is telling the truth. What I do know is that Iranians are as entitled to the benefits of nuclear power as much as those in the US or UK, and I wonder why we always seem to create when a country with which we don't see eye to eye tries to better itself. After all nobody took us to task when we got nuclear power. Israel is a different story...

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    Mr Blair must be happy with this report, he's been itching to invade Iran for years. This feels like before Iraq...anything to give us a reason to invade. How about, for a change, western governments get their own back yards in order before they pontificate to other nations?

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    Oh great, another war as an excuse to get cheap oil and regeneration contracts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    I'm off to the gym. All this talk of pending war - makes me most unhappy.

    Why we cannot just play nicely together, negates totally my ability to see the reasoning of our own failures in the evolutionary chain that has brought us to where we are today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    The danger is that, if the world does nothing about Iran's nuclear weapons, Israel will and not in the way we would want. Russia has already warned Israel against military action and who knows what they could lead to? Better we sort it now through diplomacy than leave it to others to deal with in a possibly more disastrous way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    @ 161. Keep fit fanatic

    I don't like their current system very much. I am hoping it will evolve without the need for war. By your logic Sweden should be calling for intervention into the US. I hear they still execute their prisoners there. Their last leader believed god talked to him and actually invaded two countries. What a backward country with thousands of nukes, a threat to the world!

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    the problem with this type of debate is it is almost impossible to see a way through this.

    why do any countries have nuclear weapons?
    national security? projecting power? domination ? national pride? out and out wanting to cause mass destruction ?

    this is high stakes stuff that the UN needs to get US, russia, china together talking the same language quickly


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