The New IAEA Report and Iran’s Evolving Nuclear and Missile Forces, by Anthony H. Cordesman, can be found here on the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The following is a summary of the recently published report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (the Agency) on the issues revolving Iran’s possible proliferation of nuclear weapons. While the first part is a summary of the report, Cordesman offers his analysis on the subject which will be summarized in my next post.
The IAEA report is broken into sections, each addressing the different aspects of a nuclear program starting with the Weapons Annex and touching on topics like detonator development and neutron initiators. These are all components of which Iran is accused to be using to develop nuclear weapons, while one must keep in mind that all of these applications also have a potential use in the civilian nuclear sector.
Warnings in the Weapons Annex
Iran has failed to comply with its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it signed in 1968. They have announced the construction of 10 new uranium enrichment facilities and have not suspended work on all heavy water related projects. The heavy water production plant (HWPP) in question is the IR-40, located at Arak. While this reactor is under IAEA safeguards, construction has continued with an expected operation date near the end of 2013. The HWPP is supposed to be inspected by the Agency but inspectors have not been granted access, so satellite imagery has been used to document activity.
There have also been activities reported at a Uranium Conversion Facility and a Fuel Manufacturing Plant, with ongoing installation of process equipment at the conversion facility.
Development of Nuclear Weapons
The report states evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and putting them on nuclear warheads. Some evidence points to such activity prior to 2003. These concerns coincide with construction of underground nuclear facility near Natanz and the HWPP at Arak.
Between 2003 and 2004, Iran failed to report in on nuclear materials being transported while testing and experiments were done with undeclared nuclear material between the 1970s and 1980s and into the 1990s and 2000s. Iran had previously signed a Full Disclosure agreement in October of 2003, but has been stagnant in providing information.
The most controversial document about Iran is the “Alleged Studies Document” provided to the Agency in 2005 by an undisclosed member state. This document gives explanations over the usage of a clandestine nuclear supply network and some concerning activities by Iran. Some of these include a “green-salt project”, high explosive testing and projects related to missile re-entry. Since the document has been made available, there has been a continuous flow of information about nuclear program, yet none from Iran itself.
Credibility of Information
The information used by the Agency has all been provided by member states using intelligence services to obtain procurement information, travel information by certain individuals, financial records, health and safety arrangements and documents demonstrating manufacturing techniques for certain high explosive components (much like the Alleged Studies Document).
Among this information, the Agency has used their own efforts through open source research, satellite imagery, verification activities and the infrequent information provided by Iran about certain activities. While Iranian information may be useful, it is often contradictory of findings through other means.
The Agency has come to the conclusion that Iran has the capability of enriching uranium to 20% U-235, used for fuel in research reactors. This research can then be used for the development of a High Enriched Uranium (HEU) implosion device.
Program Management Structure
There have been indicators of a well-structured and carefully organized weapons program, especially in the Physics Research Center, which Iran states it uses as a nuclear defense center, but reportedly was involved and managed previous procurement activities. The center was overseen by the Defence Industries Education Research Institute which was closed in 2004.
Under this Institute was the AMAD Plan, whose activities were stated in the Alleged Studies Document. The aforementioned green-salt project was used for providing a source of uranium suitable for use in an undisclosed enrichment program as well as in the missile re-entry program with systems like the Shahab-3 medium range ballistic missiles. While the Iraq situation was worsening in 2003, the AMAD Plan was stopped, but some activities were resumed at a later date under a new organization. This new organization was called the Section for Advanced Development Applications and Technologies (SADAT) and used cover companies to hide real procurement purposes and undertakings. As stated before though, actions taken under the AMAD Plan could also be used for civilian purposes.