Bloomberg: Iran has made a nuclear detonator in defiance of international commitments not to develop atomic weapons, the exiled opposition National Council for Resistance in Iran said. Iranian scientists are now trying to set up serial production of detonators — which are designed to set off a chain reaction of uranium fuel — and have enough material to produce detonators for about 12 nuclear bombs, Mohammad Mohaddessin, chairman of the council’s foreign affairs committee, said at a news conference in Paris today. Bloomberg
By Gregory Viscusi and Julian Nundy
Iran has made a nuclear detonator in defiance of international commitments not to develop atomic weapons, the exiled opposition National Council for Resistance in Iran said.
Iranian scientists are now trying to set up serial production of detonators — which are designed to set off a chain reaction of uranium fuel — and have enough material to produce detonators for about 12 nuclear bombs, Mohammad Mohaddessin, chairman of the council’s foreign affairs committee, said at a news conference in Paris today.
“All these activities are illegal and a breach of Iran’s commitments to the International Atomic Energy Agency,” Mohaddessin said. “They reflect Iran’s efforts to obtain a nuclear bomb” which are approaching “a critical stage.”
The U.S. accuses Iran of having a clandestine nuclear weapons program. Iran in November agreed with France, Germany and the U.K. to suspend work on uranium enrichment, a process that could generate fuel for a nuclear weapon, to improve relations with the European states.
The detonator, also called an initiator, was made from part of a consignment of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of beryllium metal combined with polonium-210, Mohaddessin said.
Mohaddessin, whose group last year revealed what it said was an Iranian missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads, said the main impediment to Iran producing a usable nuclear weapon by the regime’s 2005 deadline is its lack of enough enriched uranium.
Mohaddessin said the detonator was developed at Iran’s Lavizan-2 facility, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) northeast of Tehran and near the Lavizan-1 site that has been inspected by the IAEA, the United Nations nuclear watchdog. The area has Revolutionary Guard bases to ensure its security, he said, showing a slide with the facility’s location on a map of Tehran.
Mohaddessin declined to identify the country, or countries, that supplied the nuclear materials, saying he wanted to protect the sources of his information. He added that the development process resembled that of the former Soviet Union. Of the nuclear powers, the U.S., China and the Soviet Union used similar methods to build detonators, he said.
Mohaddessin said all the group’s sources of information are in Iran. He denied claims that his group is in contact with U.S. and Israeli intelligence.
Last month, Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, urged the U.S. to join the Europeans in discussions with Iran.
“It is vital that the U.S. becomes part of the dialogue,” ElBaradei said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We are getting good cooperation from Iran. These issues can’t be resolved without face-to-face negotiations.”
“European policies of appeasement have given the regime precious time,” Mohaddessin said today.
French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie today defended the European policy of relying on diplomacy to prevent Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.
“In this case, persuasion alone won’t work,” she said at a press conference of the European-American Press Club. “You need a dialogue where you can offer something in exchange. In this case, what Iran wants is technical help with its energy industry.”
In his State of the Union address to Congress yesterday, U.S. President George W. Bush said Iran is “the world’s primary state sponsor of terror, pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve.”
The U.S. is “working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program and any plutonium reprocessing,” Bush said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Jan. 27 Iran will reject any “discriminatory” proposals to restrict its nuclear work, responding to a proposal from the UN watchdog for a five-year moratorium on uranium enrichment. Iran says its research is designed to generate electricity, not arms.
The National Council of the Resistance was founded in July 1981 to oppose the Islamic Republic in Iran. It includes groups such as the People’s Mujahedeen, the Organization of Iranian People’s Fadaian Guerrillas and the Committed Professors of Iran’s Universities and Schools of Higher Education. Its headquarters are at Auvers-sur-Oise, north of Paris.