Without Discrimination

In March, shortly before retiring as Deputy Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Pierre Goldschmidt provided the IAEA Board an update on Iran’s compliance with a) its Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Safeguards agreement [.pdf], b) its voluntary adherence to an Additional Protocol [.pdf], and c) its voluntary suspension – as a confidence-building measure – of enrichment-related and reprocessing-related activities.

Goldschmidt began by noting that “Iran has facilitated in a timely manner Agency access to nuclear material and facilities under its Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol.”

He also reported that the IAEA “has continued its activities to verify all elements of IranĀ“s voluntary suspension of all enrichment related and reprocessing activities.”

So far, so good.

But, in an effort to be “completely transparent” about its current and past nuclear programs, Iran had also voluntarily provided the IAEA all sorts of information about its past activities.

In particular, Iran showed the Agency a handwritten one-page document reflecting an offer they said had been made to them back in 1987 by a "foreign intermediary" relating to "centrifuge technology acquisition."

According to Goldschmidt, the offer included the delivery of: a disassembled gas-centrifuge and engineering drawings, therefore; engineering drawing for a “complete" uranium-enrichment plant; auxiliary vacuum and electric drive equipment for the centrifuges, as well as the materials for constructing 2000 centrifuge machines.

The offer also included equipment for the production and casting of uranium metal.

The Iranians said only some of these items had been ordered, and not all of those ordered had been delivered. But all that had been delivered had now been declared to the IAEA.

The Agency requested that any other documentation relevant to the offer be made available for the Agency’s review.

Now, some of you may recall that, in the aftermath of the Gulf War, the IAEA had discovered a one-page memo, dated Oct. 6, 1990, summarizing a meeting between members of the Mukhabarat – the Iraqi intelligence service – and an intermediary who said he represented the Khan network.

Metallurgist Khan had worked for a subsidiary of Urenco, the European uranium-enrichment consortium. Khan had stolen Urenco designs for a first-generation gas-centrifuge and Urenco supplier lists, returned to Pakistan and got to work. By the early 1980s, indigenously produced second-generation gas-centrifuge uranium-enrichment facilities were up and running.

What to do with the first-generation stuff?

Offer – for a price – to help “establish a project to enrich uranium and manufacture a nuclear weapon.”

The Iraqis didn’t buy any of it.

But, the Bush-Cheney administration charged that the offer made to Iran back in 1987 to provide Iran uranium metal “casting capabilities” also amounted to an offer by the Khan network to help Iran manufacture a nuclear weapon.

Associated Press ‘reporter’ George Jahn claims to have gotten access to a ‘confidential’ IAEA report that will be presented to the Board next week.

Apparently, the Iranians have found and turned over to the IAEA a "document" they were given showing how to cast “enriched, natural and depleted uranium metal into hemispherical forms.”

The chief U.S. delegate to the IAEA, Gregory L. Schulte, said Washington was “very concerned” about the "find", along with the “large cache of documents uncovered by the agency” showing detailed instructions on how to set up uranium enrichment facilities.

“This opens new concerns about weaponization that Iran has failed to address,” Schulte told reporters.

Well, first of all, the IAEA didn’t ‘uncover’ anything. The Iranians – although not obligated to do so – ransacked their files and voluntarily turned over to the IAEA everything relevant they found.

As to ‘new concerns about weaponization’, after more than two years of intrusive Additional Protocol inspections, ElBaradei has yet to find any indication that Iran has used or is planning to use ‘source or special nuclear materials’ in support of a military purpose.

Hence, Iran is in compliance with its Safeguards Agreement.

Nevertheless, because of intense pressure by the United States, the IAEA passed a resolution on September 24th, urging Iran to:

    • implement transparency measures, extending beyond the formal requirements of the Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol,
    • re-establish full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related activity, and reprocessing activity;
    • reconsider the construction of a research reactor moderated by heavy water; and
    • promptly ratify the Additional Protocol;

In rebuttal [.pdf], Iran has noted that "[I]n carrying out its functions, the Agency shall not make assistance to members subject to any political, economic, military, or other conditions incompatible with the provisions of this Statute".

But that’s exactly what the Board did in September. What do you reckon it will do next week?

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.