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Report says Iran nuclear weapons work continued til 2009

A new International Atomic Energy Agency report found that Iran's nuclear program included weapons-related work at least until 2009, much more recent than earlier believed.

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The structured work "was stopped rather abruptly pursuant to a 'halt order' instruction issued in late 2003 by senior Iranian officials," the IAEA reports. 

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But staff remained in place to document their work and "subsequently, equipment and work places were either cleaned or disposed of so that there would be little to identify the sensitive nature of the work which had been undertaken."

The IAEA also charted the procurement of specialty parts, from high-speed electronic switches and high-speed cameras, to units used to trigger and fire detonators, which all have civilian applications, but "would be useful in the development of a nuclear explosive device."

The IAEA also noted that Iran has received a "similar package of information" from the illegal nuclear network of Pakistani A. Q. Khan that had been given to Libya. That information, seen in Libya by the IAEA in 2004, "included details on the design and construction of, and the manufacture of components for, a nuclear explosive device."

In 2007, the IAEA said it interviewed a member of that "clandestine" network – presumably from Pakistan, though it is not stated – who said that "Iran had been provided with nuclear explosive design information." The IAEA said it believes Iran may have received even more advanced information.

Iran also experimented with fast-acting detonators and far more sophisticated multipoint initiation systems. Iran said in 2008 that "the subject was not understandable to Iran" and no experiments had been carried, the IAEA reported. But then it listed details of just such activities that had been conducted in 2003.

In that test, the IAEA noted, the dimensions of the initiation system and explosives uses "were consistent with the dimensions for the new payload" being engineered for the Shahab-3 missile.

Such a system "can be used in a nuclear explosive device," the IAEA said, but "Iran has not been willing to engage in discussion of this topic with the Agency."

Parchin complex

The IAEA states that Iran also "has manufactured simulated nuclear explosive components using high density materials such as tungsten."

An explosives containment vessel was also created – this information confirmed by commercial satellites, and a foreign scientist reported elsewhere as a Russian – at the Parchin military complex.

Such experiments, the IAEA said, "which involve high explosives in conjunction with nuclear material or nuclear material surrogates, are strong indicators of possible weapon development."

Among other data, the IAEA described preparatory work for testing a nuclear explosive device down a deep shaft, including a document in Farsi "which relates directly to the logistics and safety arrangements that would be necessary for conducting a nuclear test."

Likewise, Iran conducted computer modeling studies of "at least 14 progressive design iterations" of the payload for the missile. Iran "refused the Agency permission to visit" the places of manufacturing the prototype parts. 

While the engineering work "may be relevant" to a non-nuclear payload, the IAEA concluded, they are "highly relevant to a nuclear weapon program."

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