AFP: Iran has obtained the materials and expertise to make the triggers for an atomic bomb, bringing closer its goal of acquiring nuclear weapons later this year, the main Iranian opposition grouping said in Paris Thursday. Citing secret sources inside Iran’s nuclear development programme, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said that Tehran has produced or bought from abroad quantities of polonium-210 and beryllium — two elements required for building a “neutron initiator.” AFP
by Hugh Schofield
PARIS – Iran has obtained the materials and expertise to make the triggers for an atomic bomb, bringing closer its goal of acquiring nuclear weapons later this year, the main Iranian opposition grouping said in Paris Thursday.
Citing secret sources inside Iran’s nuclear development programme, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said that Tehran has produced or bought from abroad quantities of polonium-210 and beryllium — two elements required for building a “neutron initiator.”
It has also developed the know-how to make a “neutron generator” which is another key part of the neutron initiator, the NCRI said.
A neutron initiator starts the chain reaction that leads to nuclear fission, and along with the nuclear fuel and the delivery system is an essential part of an atomic bomb.
“Tehran has already succeeded in using beryllium in conjunction with polonium-210 for large-scale laboratory testing purposes, and is getting very close to the point of industrial production,” Mohammad Mohaddessin, the NCRI’s foreign affairs committee chairman, told a news conference.
In recent months the NCRI has produced evidence purporting to show that the Islamic republic is well advanced in its production of enriched uranium fuel and in the development of a missile capable of delivering nuclear warheads.
“All these activities have been hidden from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) … They reflect an unrelenting effort to obtain nuclear weapons … Tehran is advancing toward critical stages in its quest for a nuclear bomb,” Mohaddessin said.
In September the NCRI said that Tehran hoped to develop a nuclear bomb “in the first half of 2005.”
After protracted negotiations with the European Union, the Iranian government agreed in November to suspend its programme of uranium enrichment. Tehran says the programme is for civilian purposes, but the United States suspects Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons.
Based in a northern Paris suburb, the NCRI is the political face of the People’s Mujahedeen (PMOI), which has been branded as terrorist in both the US and the EU. The NCRI contests the label, which it says was imposed by governments seeking to curry favour with Tehran.
Mohaddessin cited the names of senior officials in Iran’s defence ministry and Atomic Energy Agency who he said were responsible for acquiring the two elements. They include deputy defence minister Seyyed Ali Hosseini Tash — “the official in charge of producing weapons of mass destruction.”
In 2004 Iran secretly imported 20 kilograms of beryllium from a foreign country, and it now has enough to “produce initiators for a dozen nuclear Bombs,” Mohaddessin said. He refused to name the supplying country but said all its information had been passed on to the IAEA and interested governments.
The beryllium was imported by a front company — named as the San’at Gostar Majd Company — which was set up “to justify any possible revelations and inquiries by the IAEA … and lend support to (the government’s) claim that the work is for peaceful purposes,” Mohaddessin said.
The polonium-210 was being produced by irradiation of the metal bismuth, the NCRI said. “Tehran has lied to the IAEA that it has not produced polonium-210 in the last 12 years,” said Mohaddessin.
The NCRI also produced maps showing a complex called Lavizan II, which is situated in a military zone about 25 kilometres (17 miles) northwest of Tehran city centre.
Acording to Mohaddessin, Lavizan II is being used by the Iranian government to produce beryllium needed for the nuclear initiators, but also to enrich warhead uranium “via laser technology.”
“The main problem holding the regime back is that it still has an insufficent quantity of enriched uraniumn. This is their main priority now — getting enough uranium,” he said.
The NCRI, which is headed by Maryam Rajavi, accuses European governments of running a “policy of appeasement” towards Tehran. “Calling us terrorist is a gift to the mullahs,” said Mohaddessin.