New IAEA report: PMD and SPND

Yukiya Amano and the boys and girls at IAEA headquarters in Vienna have just delivered the IAEA's final report on the so-called possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran's nuclear programme. You can read the report here.

For Iran, the report is not exactly a welcome Christmas present. It confirms what is now widely accepted amongst analysts and intelligence agencies - that Iran had a coordinated nuclear weapons programme until 2003, and that some uncoordinated scientific activities relating to nuclear weapons design continued until at least 2009.

Iran has done well so far to stonewall the IAEA's investigations and play dumb about their former nuclear weapons programme. Indeed, Redline expects Tehran to take a leaf from Taylor Swift's book and shake off the new report like so many internet haterz or some sort of amorous member of One Direction.

Taylor Swift

For the Iranians who were actually involved in the pre-2003 nuclear weapons programme, the report won't be quite as easy to dodge. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh (محسن فخریزاده) head of the pre-2003 AMAD nuclear weapons plan (and agitator ever since for a renewed nuclear weapons programme) gets a special shout out from the IAEA:

IAEA Report

What the report makes very clear is that the IAEA hasn't given up on its pursuit of Fakhrizadeh and the organisation that he now leads, SPND (سازمان پژوهش و نوآوری دفاعی). As long as SPND exists - and as long as it is led by Fakhrizadeh - suspicions will remain that Iran's nuclear weapon aspirations are just waiting out the storm.

There's some other goodies in the new IAEA report too. Perhaps the most interesting one relates to Parchin, where Fakhrizazdeh's team reportedly conducted implosion experiments in a chamber designed by an ex-Soviet nuclear scientist. It turns out that IAEA material samples taken inside the Parchin facility actually turned up particles of uranium (see footnote 40 of the report). Pretty amazing that after more than a decade of Winston Wolf-style sanitisation of the Parchin facility by SPND cleaning staff that there was still some uranium lurking about.

That's going to be awkward for SPND to have to explain. Another thing that might cause them some heartache is the IAEA's fairly withering criticism of various elements of the AMAD Plan's planned secret nuclear fuel cycle. Most cutting is the IAEA's assessment that AMAD's 'green salt' project - a planned facility to produce uranium salts - was "technically flawed and of low quality". Burn!

Also interesting is that Iran has admitted working on multi-point initiation systems (see pages 8 and 9 of the report) - a complex method of triggering explosions that is perfectly suited to making miniaturised nuclear weapons. (A multi-point detonator looks a bit like R2-D2's swivelling head - put two of them together with some explosives and kapow, you've got yourself a neat replacement for the bulky explosive lens system used to implode early nuclear weapons.)

According to the report, Iran says that it has been investigating multi-point initiation systems for "unspecified conventional military purposes". What it doesn't say is just who in Iran has been doing the investigating - Redline can't help but wonder whether its our old friends inside SPND. What a coincidence that would be!

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