AP Exclusive: Drawing focuses on Iran´s nuke work (AP) Associated Press) By GEORGE JAHN VIENNA, AUSTRIA 05/13/12)
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VIENNA (AP) ó A drawing based on information from inside an Iranian
military site shows an explosives containment chamber of the type
needed for nuclear arms-related tests that U.N. inspectors suspect
Tehran has conducted there. Iran denies such testing and has neither
confirmed nor denied the existence of such a chamber.
The computer-generated drawing was provided to The Associated Press
by an official of a country tracking Iran´s nuclear program who said
it proves the structure exists, despite Tehran´s refusal to
That official said the image is based on information from a person
who had seen the chamber at the Parchin military site, adding that
going into detail would endanger the life of that informant. The
official comes from an IAEA member country that is severely critical
of Iran´s assertions that its nuclear activities are peaceful and
asserts they are a springboard for making atomic arms.
A former senior IAEA official said he believes the drawing is
accurate. Olli Heinonen, until last year the U.N. nuclear agency´s
deputy director general in charge of the Iran file, said it was "very
similar" to a photo he recently saw that he believes to be the
pressure chamber the IAEA suspects is at Parchin.
He said even the colors of the computer-generated drawing matched
that of the photo he had but declined to go into the origins of the
photo to protect his source.
After months of being rebuffed, IAEA and Iranian officials meet
starting Monday in Vienna, and the IAEA will renew its attempt to
gain access to the chamber, allegedly hidden in a building. Any
evidence that Iran is hiding such an explosives containment tank, and
details on how it functions, is significant for IAEA investigations.
Beyond IAEA hopes of progress, that two-day meeting is being closely
watched by six powers trying to persuade Iran to make nuclear
concessions aimed at reducing fears that it may want to develop
atomic arms as a mood-setter for May 23 talks between the six and
Tehran in Baghdad.
Warnings by Israel that it may attack Iran´s nuclear facilities eased
after Iran and the six - the United States, Russia, China, Britain,
France and Germany - met last month and agreed there was enough
common will for the Baghdad round. But with the Jewish state saying
it is determined to stop Iran before it develops the capacity to
build nuclear weapons, failure at the Iraq talks could turn such
threats into reality.
In Tehran on Sunday, Saeed Jalili, Iran´s top nuclear negotiator,
said it was up to the Western nations coming to the Baghdad talks
to "build trust of the Iranian nation," adding, "Any kind of
miscalculation by the West will block success of the talks."
The IAEA has been stonewalled by Iran for more than four years in
attempts to probe what it says is intelligence from member states
strongly suggesting that Iran secretly worked on developing nuclear
It first mentioned the suspected existence of the chamber in a
November report that described "a large explosives containment
vessel" for experiments on triggering a nuclear explosion, adding
that it had satellite images "consistent with this information."
It did not detail what the images showed. But a senior diplomat
familiar with the IAEA´s investigation who has also seen the image
provided to the AP said they revealed a cylinder similar to the image
at Parchin. Subsequent photos showed a roof and walls going up around
the cylinder that then hid the chamber from satellite surveillance.
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said in March that his agency has "credible
information that indicates that Iran engaged in activities relevant
to the development of nuclear explosive devices" at the site.
Diplomats subsequently told the AP that the experiments also appear
to have involved a small prototype neutron device used to spark a
nuclear explosion - equipment that would be tested only if a country
was trying to develop atomic weapons.
Iran has strenuously denied conducting such work - and any intentions
to build nuclear weapons - but has been less clear on whether the
structure where it allegedly took place exists.
The senior diplomat familiar with the IAEA investigations said the
Iranians have refused to comment "one way or the other" on that issue
to agency experts. He and others interviewed by the AP demanded
anonymity because their information was privileged, and the official
providing the drawing and other details on the structure also
demanded that he and his country not be identified in return for
sharing classified intelligence.
Attempts to get Iranian comment were unsuccessful. A copy of the
diagram was attached to an email sent to Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran´s
chief delegate to the IAEA, with a note that the AP would be asking
for reaction. Subsequent phone calls over the weekend went to his
The technology used for the suspected multipoint explosives trigger
experiments is similar to that employed in manufacturing tiny
industrialized diamonds, and the IAEA believes former Soviet
scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko - an expert in such diamond-making -
helped Iran with designing the chamber.
Diplomats say Danilenko has told the agency that he did not work on
such a chamber, but his son in law, identified by the diplomats as
Vladimir Padalko, told the IAEA that the container was built under
Danilenko´s direct supervision. Repeated attempts by the AP and other
media organizations to contact the two men have been unsuccessful
since the IAEA revealed Danilenko´s suspected involvement in November.
"What one does inside such a chamber is conduct high explosives
testing," said Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the Non-Proliferation
and Disarmament Program of the International Institute for Strategic
Studies. "You are going to make something go boom with maybe 70
kilograms (more than 150 pounds) of high explosives, you need to
contain the explosion.
"And particularly if you are using uranium, which is reportedly the
case, you want to contain all the uranium dust so there´s not any
tell-tale, observable signals of that experimentation."
The official who provided the drawing also shared the following
information on the chamber:
-Built in the early 2000s by Azar AB Industries Co. in the city of
Arak and then transported to Parchin. Both the senior diplomat
familiar with the IAEA investigations and Heinonen, the former senior
IAEA official, confirmed this. Company officials did not answer calls
-Volume: 300 cubic meters, or about 10,600 feet. Diameter: 4.6
meters, or 15.09 feet. Length: 18. 8 meters, or 61.68 feet. The
senior diplomat confirmed the measurements.
-A vacuum pump used to remove air from the chamber to minimize
pressure that could damage the structure during an explosion; a
compressor that shoots water into the chamber after testing to flood
and clean it; a septic tank that receives the waste; an elevation
system to suspend the explosives in the upper part of the chamber
during testing; and a neutron detection system outside the explosion
chamber to measure neutron emissions. The senior diplomat said these
features would make sense, or such testing, but could not verify they
existed, suggesting they may have been added after the Iranians put
up the superstructure shielding the chamber from satellite
-The official said the chamber was used for detonation experiments in
2003, 2005 and 2006. Two officials familiar with the investigations
said the first date appeared to be valid but they had no information
of subsequent experiments. The United States believes Iran stopped
working on a concerted nuclear weapons program at various sites after
2003, while the IAEA suspects Tehran is continuing some work but in a
much less organized way than before 2003.
-Seyed Ashgar Hashemi-Tabar, described as "an expert in measuring
detonation phenomena" and not previously identified. Acting on
information from the same official, the AP previously named other
scientists allegedly involved as Fereydoun Abbasi, the current head
of Iran´s nuclear agency, who escaped an assassination attempt in
2010; Darious Rezainejad, who was killed by a car bomb last year; and
Inspecting the site at Parchin, southeast of the capital, Tehran, was
a key request made by senior IAEA teams that visited Tehran in
January and February. Iran rebuffed those demands and subsequent
ones - the most recent within the last two weeks - as well as
attempts by the nuclear agency to question Iranian officials and
secure other information linked to the allegations of secret weapons
At the same time, the IAEA has voiced alarm at unexplained "activity"
at the site - a term diplomats familiar with the agency´s concerns
say stands for attempts to clean up any evidence of the kinds of
experiments the agency suspects were carried out.
A second senior diplomat familiar with the investigation recently
told the AP that spy satellite images shared with the agency show
what seems to be water streaming from the building housing the
chamber. He said it also depicts workers removing bags of material
from that building and put on vehicles outside.
A third senior diplomat said that the apparent cleanup was continuing
in early May, the last time he had seen the images.
Iran has scoffed at suggestions of a cleanup in general and of
testing a neutron device in particular, with Foreign Ministry
spokesman Ramin Mahmanparast asserting that nuclear contamination
cannot be washed away. But experts challenge that assertion.
A cleanup "could involve grinding down the surfaces inside the
building, collecting the dust and then washing the area thoroughly,"
said David Albright, whose Institute for Science and International
Security in Washington looks for signs of nuclear
proliferation. "This could be followed with new building materials
"It could also involve removing any dirt around the building thought
to contain contaminants," Albright said in a statement emailed to
selected recipients. "These types of activities could be effective in
defeating environmental sampling."
Fitzpatrick, the other nuclear nonproliferation expert, also said a
cleanup could be effective.
"In the past, the IAEA has been able to catch out Iran by going to a
building that Iran tried to clean and they still found traces of
uranium," he said. "And Iran learned from that and they learned
that ´boy you have to scrub everything really clean; get down into
the drains and grind away any possible residue.´" (© 2012 The
Associated Press 05/13/12)
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