The Smoking Gun

December 21, 2011 by staff 

The Smoking Gun, UN nuclear inspectors are pursuing leads to make the case that Iran is working on the bomb, a month after a report that lacked the “smoking gun” needed to brand Iran guilty of seeking nuclear weapons.

If Iran used nuclear material to do weapons work, the country would be in direct violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Tehran has signed. Failing to report that work to the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency — as they are required to – would also put Iran at odds with the international community. In any case, a large measure of ambiguity about Iran’s nuclear work would be removed. IAEA inspectors were careful to avoid “extrapolating” in the November report, in the hope that Iran would answer their questions. The result is that important implications were not spelled out in the detailed allegation of a comprehensive and sustained Iranian nuclear weapons program.

The United States has estimated that Iran stopped its weaponization activities in 2003 but the IAEA report states that some work has continued since then. These activities may have included neutron initiator testing using natural uranium, or natural uranium transformed into uranium deuteride. A neutron initiator is a key trigger to setting off a nuclear explosion. The tiny initiator is placed in the center of a nuclear core to produce a burst of neutrons, initiating a fission chain reaction.

The test would have required a dry-run explosion.

Even if the Iranians claim the test, believed to have taken place before 2003, was for peaceful purposes it still would have been in violation of UN rules. Those rules state that all use of nuclear material must be reported to IAEA. The test would also violate the NPT, which bans nuclear-weapon-related work.

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