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Iran Had Secret Nuclear Program but No Weapons, U.N. Agency Finds

Iran said Tuesday the violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that the United Nations’ agency outlined in its report were trivial, and that it had to hide certain nuclear activities because of sanctions that have been in place for decades.

The IAEA’s report was released to member countries Monday in advance of a Nov. 20 meeting, which will discuss Iran’s nuclear case. Iran has insisted its nuclear program is for civilian energy production only.

The 29-page report, based on documents Iran provided prior to an Oct. 31 deadline set by the IAEA, says there is “no evidence” that Iran has sought to build a nuclear bomb, but the nuclear agency will continue to investigate the country’s capabilities, according to the Washington Post.

“Iran has now acknowledged that it has been developing, for 18 years, a uranium centrifuge program, and, for 12 years, a laser enrichment program,” the assessment reportedly finds. “In that context Iran has admitted that it produced small amounts of LEU [low-enriched uranium], using both centrifuge and laser enrichment processes … and a small amount of plutonium.”

Plutonium production is generally associated with building nuclear weapons. Iran made the plutonium between 1988 and 1992 at the Tehran Nuclear Research Center to “gain experience in reprocessing chemistry,” Iran said, according to the IAEA report, and later dismantled the equipment.

Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, said Tuesday on state television, “The failures attributed to Iran are insignificant and are at the level of gram and microgram of nuclear materials,” Reuters reported.

But diplomats from other countries say the production of even small amounts of plutonium demonstrate a knowledge of manufacturing a key ingredient for nuclear weapons and should not be ignored.

Iran has recently said it would sign an additional protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that allows the IAEA to conduct more intrusive and short-notice inspections of its nuclear facilities. Iran also said it would suspend uranium enrichment indefinitely. Both are part of a diplomatic initiative led by Germany, Britain and France.

The countries said Tuesday they would like to see words followed by deeds.

“What we would most like to see is implementation of the very welcome announcement that Iran has made,” Reuters quoted Emma Udwin, spokeswoman of the executive European Commission, as saying.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei also called Iran’s pronouncements “a welcome and positive development.”

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