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Iran Sought Miniaturized Nuclear Bomb Design to Fit Missiles

Tuesday, 08 Nov 2011 02:14 PM

 

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(Updates with oil price in the fifth, neutron source in the sixth, explosive tests in the eighth paragraph.)

Nov. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Iran sought to miniaturize a Pakistani nuclear weapon design to fit on its ballistic missiles and continued working to raise the potential power of the weapons at least until 2010, United Nations inspectors reported today, citing “credible” intelligence from more than 10 countries.

Iran carried out “work on the development of an indigenous design of a nuclear weapon including the testing of components,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said today in a 15-page restricted document obtained by Bloomberg News. “Some activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device continued after 2003” and “some may still be ongoing.”

The document, drawing on eight years of collected evidence, shows that Iran worked to redesign and miniaturize a Pakistani nuclear-weapon design by using a web of front companies and foreign experts, according to the report and an international official familiar with the IAEA’s investigation.

The IAEA’s conclusion that Iran continued weapons work until at least until last year clashes with U.S. intelligence estimates that Tehran’s government stopped pursuing a nuclear bomb in 2003. Until now, atomic inspectors had only voiced concerns publicly about the “possible existence” of weapons work in Iran. The new analysis is likely to heighten international pressure on Iran.

Oil Prices

The IAEA report “could increase the risk of a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities” and therefore “justified a certain risk premium on the price of oil,” Commerzbank wrote today in a research note. Crude oil for December delivery rose 65 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $96.17 a barrel at 12:49 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures are up 5.2 percent this year.

Iran worked on high explosives design and the development of a neutron generator, the part of an atomic bomb that generates a nuclear chain reaction, according to the senior official.

“Iran embarked on a four year program, from around 2006 onwards, on the further validation of the design of this neutron source,” the IAEA report said, citing one member state that shared information with inspectors.

The IAEA also revealed details of “large-scale high explosives” experiments conducted near Marivan in 2003. The experiments, which drew on technology shared by a Russian nuclear scientist, would have helped Iran calibrate the explosive impact of a bomb’s uranium core, according to the report.

Independent Sources

“The information comes from a wide variety of independent sources, including from a number of member states, from the agency’s own efforts and from information provided by Iran itself,” the report said.

Iran has told IAEA inspectors that evidence used against the Persian Gulf country was forged.

It is the first time that the IAEA has published a comprehensive analysis of Iran’s nuclear-weapons work. Data before 2003 is more comprehensive than information seen thereafter, according to the senior official. The Vienna-based agency shared a copy of the information with Iranian authorities before the report was published, the official said.

Iran increased its supply of 20 percent-enriched uranium to 73.7 kilograms from 70.8 kilograms reported in September at a pilot nuclear facility in Natanz about 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of Tehran, the IAEA said. Iran has produced 4,922 kilograms of uranium enriched to less than 5 percent compared with 4,543 kilograms in the last IAEA report.

About 630 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, if further purified, could yield the 15 kilograms to 22 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium needed by an expert bomb maker to craft a weapon, according to the London-based Verification Research, Training and Information Center, a non-governmental observer to the IAEA that is funded by European governments.

--Editors: Steven Komarow, Bob Drummond

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Tirone in Vienna at jtirone@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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