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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Nuclear Weapons - 2003 Developments

The IAEA announced that its secretary-general, Muhammad al-Baradei, would visit Iran on 25 February, Iranian state radio reported on 19 December 2002. According to previous reports, Tehran had postponed al-Baradei's visit several times despite a February 10 announcement that there would be no limit to the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) ability to conduct inspections in Iran, and he denied that Iran plans to use nuclear technology for military purposes, IRNA reported on 11 February.

The IAEA team led by ElBaradei which visited Iran in February 2003 detected that Iran had introduced some uranium hexafluoride into the gas centrifuges, which would be a clear breach of the NPT.

President Mohammad Khatami said on 09 February 2003 that the Islamic Republic of Iran had decided to utilize advanced technology including those in the nuclear industry for peaceful purposes. He said that the government has adopted plans to exploit the uranium mines 200 km off Yazd and set up plants in Isfahan and Kashan to extract uranium composites to provide fuel for generating electricity. President Khatami said that his government has decided to generate some 6,000 megawatts of electricity from nuclear energy adding that Bushehr power plant has been designed to generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity. President Khatami's admission of Iranian uranium mining came only two weeks before the 25 February 2003 visit to Iran of the International Atomic Energy Agency's Director General, Dr. ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency experts.

Iran's admission that it had been mining uranium, when Russia had agreed to provide all the uranium fuel for lifetime of the Bushehr reactor, raised serious questions about Iran's supposedly peaceful nuclear program. Some accounts of the Khatami remarks said he also asserted that Iran planned to reprocess spent fuel from Bushehr. If press reports suggesting that Iran will reprocess spent fuel were accurate, this would directly contradict Iran's agreement with Russia to return all of the spent fuel to Russia.

Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Deputy Director Assadollah Saburi said on 11 March 2003 that Iran had not agreed to sign the additional protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which allows unannounced inspections of nuclear facilities, because it would impose new limits. Saburi explained, "We do not want to increase our commitments in the face of sanctions that are currently imposed on us for obtaining nuclear technology." Saburi said, however, that Iran has agreed to notify the IAEA before it begins any other nuclear facility. Iranian Atomic Energy Organization chief Qolamreza Aqazadeh-Khoi added that Western countries must drop sanctions against Iran before its signs the additional protocol. [SOURCE]

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said during his visit to Tehran that he had seen progress in Iran on the nuclear issue and called on Tehran to "continue confidence-building measures" on its nuclear program, AFP reported on 24 April 2003. De Villepin welcomed public assurances from Iranian President Khatami that the country is not seeking to develop nuclear arms and is acquiring nuclear power for peaceful purposes only, but said in a joint press conference with his counterpart Kamal Kharrazi that Iran should go one step further by signing the additional protocol of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. IAEA Director-General Mohammad el-Baradei had urged Iran, which is currently only subject to inspections of sites it has already declared, to sign the protocol allowing unlimited and surprise inspections by international experts of any suspect sites. Khatami's response was not very positive. After meeting with de Villepin, his office said in a statement "Why do countries possessing such (civilian atomic energy) technology not respect the principles of the nonproliferation treaty by not helping us in turn to acquire it?"

The IAEA Director General issued a report to the 35 Member States of the Board of Governors on nuclear safeguards in Iran. The report was issued on 06 June 2003,in advance of a meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors to commence on 16 June 2003 in Vienna, at which the issue is to be considered. The IAEA report was released on 19 June 2003 and states that "Iran has failed to meet it's obligations under the Safeguards Agreement with respect to the reporting of nuclear material, the subsequent processing and sue of that material and the declaration of facilities where the material was stored and processed."[SOURCE]

As a result, the Agency is continuing to pursue their investigation into Iran's enrichment capabilities, requiring Iran to submit to a complete chronology of its centrifuge and laser enrichment efforts, in particular, a description of all research and development activities carried out before the construction of the Natanaz facilities. In addition, the IAEA will follow-up allegations concerning undeclared enrichment of nuclear material, in particular, at the Kalaye Electric Company. Further inquiries about Iran's heavy water program, including heavy water production and heavy water reactor design and construction.

Un-named individuals have provided the IAEA with designs for Iran's gas centrifuges. The blueprints depict a centrifuge nearly identical to the machine used by Pakistan in the early years of its nuclear program. The plans and components were acquired by Iran in several installments in the late 1980s through the mid-1990s.

Contrary to the requirements of the NPT, Iran did not report the acquisition and processing of 1.8 tons of natural uranium, and their storage in a facility that was hitherto unknown to the IAEA. The uranium was purchased from China as early as 1991, but Iran admitted making the purchase only during El Baradei's visit in February 2003. The yield was a small amount of low-grade uranium -- only 0.29 pounds -- while a nuclear weapon would require about 40 pounds of highly enriched uranium.

The IAEA found two different types of HEU in Iran. Iran has tried to explain away that finding with a belated admission that its senior officials erred in repeatedly telling the Agency, the Board and the world that the Iranian centrifuge enrichment program was wholly indigenous. Instead, the Agency is now told, Iran must have acquired "contaminated" centrifuge components from previously unacknowledged foreign sources. In light of prior revisions in Iran's explanation of its program, this new assertion clearly must be examined with great care to establish whether the particles that were discovered reflect enrichment activities outside Iran, within the country, or both.

On 05 June 2003 Thursday Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said in an interview with Russian daily Izvestia that Iran will acquire weapons of mass destruction by 2006. "Iran will possess weapons of mass destruction at the end of 2005 or early in 2006. This greatly concerns Israel and I think, should concern Russia," Shalom said, without giving any further details.

In its June 6, 2003 report on the Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in Iran, the Director General encouraged Iran to conclude an Additional Protocol. Without such protocols in force, the Agency's ability to provide credible assurances regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear activities would be limited.

According to the 06 June 2003 IAEA report, the Iranian authorities provided information about their heavy water reactor program consisting of the heavy water production plant currently under construction at Arak and the 40 Mw(th) IR-40 construction which is planned to start at Arak in 2004. The stated purposes of the IR-40, whcih will use UO2 fuel and heavy water (both as a coolant and as a moderator), are reactor research and development, radiotope production and training.

While Iran has denied having any program to develop nuclear weapons, the IAEA has collected evidence to the contrary. The most recent report was issued 10 November 2003. The United States, which accused Tehran of pursuing nuclear weapons, wanted the matter taken before the UN Security Council for possible punitive action. But Britain, Germany, and France said their policy of constructive engagement with Iran is beginning to bear fruit.

On 21 November 2003 the IAEA accepted Iran's proposal to sign on to an additional protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that allows for unannounced inspections of its facilities.

The 10 November 2003 document , says US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, "should lay to rest any concerns about what's going on in Iran" ... The IAEA report made clear that the Iranians have been concealing, that they've not been truthful in the past. And I think the issue now is, are they going to be truthful in the future? Are they going to come clean about what had been going on in Iran? Are they going to agree to verification measures and protocols that give the international community some confidence, given that they weren't transparent in the past, that they're going to be transparent in the future?"

The resolution adopted by the IAEA Board on 26 November 2003 "Strongly deplores Iran's past failures and breaches of its obligation to comply with the provisions of its Safeguards Agreement, as reported by the Director General; and urges Iran to adhere strictly to its obligations under its Safeguards Agreement in both letter and spirit." Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States was "very satisfied" with the resolution deploring Iranian breaches of international nuclear commitments.

Iranian officials state that an active uranium enrichment program is vital to the nation's long-term plans for nuclear power development. These plans call for the construction of eight nuclear reactors, the first of which is expected to be completed by the end of 2004. The United States maintains the enrichment program forms part of a secret plan by Tehran to build nuclear weapons. Iran says its program is solely for the peaceful production of electricity.

On 29 November 2003 Hassan Rohani, the secretary general of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said Iran had suspended its uranium enrichment program in his words, "voluntarily and temporarily" as a a confidence-building measure. He said the enrichment program was, in his words, "not in question and never has been, nor will be."

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 04:42:10 ZULU