Jeffrey LewisWhoops.

A couple of days ago, IAEA DG Mohamed ElBaradei revealed that the AQ Khan network provided Iran with a number of documents in 1987, including one “related to the … casting and machining of enriched, natural and depleted uranium metal into hemispherical forms.” (Like the critical assembly below.)

Michael Adler at AFP passes along the suspicions of some Western diplomats that Iran included the suspicious document by accident:

Iran may have handed over a document which describes how to make what could be the explosive core of an atom bomb by accident to UN inspectors, diplomats said, giving more details about its contents.

One diplomat told AFP: “It’s a bit puzzling they came and gave” the document to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Other diplomats said the IAEA inspectors found it in a stack of other unrelated papers that the Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog had asked for.

The Iranians claimed the document demonstrates their commitment to transparency, but UK Ambassador the IAEA and UN Organisations, Vienna Peter Jenkins pointed out the receipt of such a document might violate Iran’s obligations under the Article II of the NPT.

This comes at a delicate time.

Diplomats and intelligence sources told Louis Charbonneau and Mark Heinrich at Reuters that “Iran is pushing ahead with plans to enrich uranium…” Such a move would undermine Russia’s offer to allow Tehran to convert uranium and then ship UF6 to Russia for enrichment by a Russian-Iranian joint venture.

Dafna Linzer reports the United States has endorsed this compromise, which has the support of most members of the IAEA Board of Governors, including the Chinese.

The real purpose of Jenkin’s speech, as reported by George Jahn at AP, was to tell the Iranians that time is running out to take this deal:

Britain, in a statement on behalf of the 25-nation bloc, offered new negotiations meant to lessen concerns over Iran’s insistence it be in full control of uranium enrichment—a possible pathway to nuclear arms.

“But Iran should not conclude that this window of opportunity will remain open in all circumstances,” said a statement read by Peter Jenkins, the chief British delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency, outside a closed meeting of the 35-nation board.

Diplomats described the statement as a veiled threat of Security Council referral.

“It won’t be open for a great deal longer,” Jenkins said later when asked how much time Iran had to influence the language of a report to the Security Council.

I still have my doubts about the virtue of an agreement that let’s Iran produce UF6, but other colleagues suggest I am understimating the efficacy of Additional Protocol inspections.

Either way, Tehran would be foolish to pass this agreement up.

Next meeting of Iran and the EU-3 scheduled for December 6.


  1. Allen Thomson (History)

    Do we know whether “hemispherical forms” means solid hemispheres, mostly solid with a small cavity in the center, or hemispherical shells with relatively thin walls?

    Each of those three possibilities implies a different bomb design, with the last one being the most ambitious and worrisome.

  2. Michael Smith

    We’ll see. China and Russia approve this deal but that does not say they will vote for sanctions if Iran turns this deal down.

    I don’t expect Iran to accept a gap in the fuel cycle unless a really good offer is put onto the table.