Nuclear Material Acquisition
Indicators exist that Iran is preparing to produce weapons grade fissile material at some point in the future. While the Agency was lacking information on design and manufacture of nuclear capability, the Alleged Studies Document added the missing pieces. According to this information, Iran covertly built a Fuel Enrichment Plant and Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz and a Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant near the holy city of Qom. These new findings created a concern about other possible sites, especially the possibility of underground facilities.
Nuclear Components for an Explosive Device
Iran has technology to prepare such fissile material for use in a weapon. The HEU needs to be converted into metal, cast and machined into components for a nuclear core and Iran possesses the necessary reconversion unit for this step. The worrisome findings stemmed from the fact that Libya was given the same information as Iran, so there has been a clear spreading through these clandestine nuclear supply networks.
Iran has or will have specialized detonators and technology needed for a weapon. The high precision technology needed comes together in the so-called Exploding Bridgewire Detonators (EBWs) which can be used in nuclear devices. However, Iran states that it developed the EBWs for civil and conventional military purposes, while the Agency states that few non-nuclear applications exist.
Initiation of High Explosives and Associated Experiments
Iran may be able to fully integrate these technologies into a bomb, as high explosive charges have been tested. The tests that were observed were consistent with dimensions needed with new payload used in the Shahab-3 missiles.
Intelligence shows that large scale testing has occurred in the region of Marivan, yet is denied by Iran. The Agency states that they interviewed a foreign expert in the field, who states that he assisted Iran and was in the country from 1996 to 2002.
Iran may be conducting simulations of key aspects of nuclear weapons development, such as computer simulations of a theoretical implosion device, using hydrodynamic experiments using surrogate materials. While a facility that would house said experiments was said to exist at Parchin, a Agency visit did not uncover anything of relevance. Such experiments, though, would be strong indicators of possible weapons development.
Modeling and Calculations
Two alleged studies have emerged on how far Iran is moving towards modeling weapons designs using components of the core of a HEU device. According to the new findings, Iranian officials requested training courses for scientists in neutron cross section calculations. Further studies have found applications for modeling of detonations and jet formation, but these have a potential use in reactor physics and conventional ordnance research as well.
Development of neutron initiators needed to sustain fissile reaction and produce high yields from a fission weapon. Evidence has been found that points to experiments to initiate high fission chain reaction.
Conducting a Test
Iran may be preparing for future tests as practical tests to see if EBWs would function properly have already been conducted.
Integration into a Missile Delivery Vehicle
The Agency found active development of nuclear missile warheads. Iran has undertaken studies to examine how to integrate a new spherical payload into the existing payload chamber of the Shahab-3 missiles. Environmental testing, using the model simulation studies and stress tests to examine levels during launch and a trajectory flight have been studied, as well as the possibility of prototype vehicles which the Agency was not allowed to see. Iran denies these allegations and while all of these mentioned projects are highly relevant to a nuclear weapons program, they are also relevant for non-nuclear payloads.
To be considered an effective lethal threat, Iran needs to combine fusing, arming and firing systems with missile warheads to create the weapons of mass destruction they are allegedly working towards.