Nov 7, 2011
An inside look at the base where Iran is developing nuclear weapons
by Yossi Melman, reprinted from a June 11, 2011 haaretz.com article
UN nuclear watchdog to release report on activities this week; Iran has carried out experiments in the final stage for developing nuclear weapons including explosions and computer simulations of explosions.
Iran is pursuing its nuclear weapons program at the Parchin military base about 30 kilometers from Tehran, diplomatic sources in Vienna say. The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to release a report this week on Iran’s nuclear activities.
According to recent leaks, Iran has carried out experiments in the final, critical stage for developing nuclear weapons – weaponization. This includes explosions and computer simulations of explosions. The Associated Press and other media outlets have reported that satellite photos of the site reveal a bus-sized container for conducting experiments.
Parchin serves as a base for research and development of missile weaponry and explosive material. It also has hundreds of structures and a number of fortified tunnels and bunkers for carrying out explosive experiments.
As far back as eight years ago, U.S. intelligence sources received information indicating that the bunkers would also be suitable to develop nuclear weapons. According to that information, Iran conducted experiments there to examine its capacity to simulate a nuclear explosion.
The Iranians rejected an IAEA request to visit Parchin, saying that IAEA rules permitted the organization’s member states to deny such visits to military bases. Now, eight years later, the site is again suspected as a location for covert military nuclear activity.
Sources say that this time around, the IAEA report will contain clearer language on military aspects of the Iranian nuclear program. The report is in the final drafting stages and will need the approval of the IAEA’s director general, Yukiya Amano.
According to information leaked to the media, the report will include a 12-page appendix with details including documents and satellite photos that support the contention that, in violation of its international obligations, Iran is covertly developing nuclear weapons.
The report is also expected to detail Iranian’s progress on uranium enrichment at its Natanz facility and state that the Islamic Republic still refuses to disclose information on various aspects of its atomic program. This in turn arouses suspicions that Iran is hiding information and is indeed developing nuclear weapons.
Previous IAEA reports have said Iran already has four and a half tons of uranium at Natanz that are enriched at 3.5 percent. If such a quantity is enriched to 90 percent, something Iran has the capacity for, it will be enough to produce fissile material for four or five nuclear bombs.
The report is expected to state that Iran has also begun to install centrifuges at a facility near Qom that is built underground to shield the site from an air attack.
Both the Natanz and Qom sites, however, are subject to regular visits by IAEA inspectors. Any decision on moving to the final stage in a nuclear weapons program would largely be up to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, with the assistance of two military advisers.
In any event, diplomats say it is unlikely the IAEA’s governing board will condemn Iran when it meets on November 17 and 18. It might take months to convince China and Russia to support a board resolution that could be the first step toward additional UN sanctions, they say.