The International Atomic Energy Agency believes that Iran’s nuclear program has dangerous “military dimensions,” according to a piece published late Monday in The New York Times. The Times report, drawing on an IAEA document, details Iran’s apparent efforts to build a nuclear bomb using “implosion” techniques – the same basic technology used in the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Overall, the nine-page report raises questions about whether Iran has sought to investigate seven different kinds of technology ranging from atomic triggers and detonators to uranium fuel, the Times reports. Essentially, Iran is able to build a bomb now, according to senior staff members of the IAEA quoted by the Times.
Implosion devices involve the detonation of a sphere of conventional explosives that create a blast wave that compresses a central ball of bomb fuel into a supercritical mass, starting the chain reaction that ends in a nuclear explosion.
Implosion designs, compact and efficient by nature, are considered necessary for making nuclear warheads small and powerful enough to fit atop a missile.
Official doubts about Tehran’s ambitions emerged publicly in 2002 and have resulted in four rounds of United Nations sanctions. But the penalties have failed to stop Iran from enriching uranium, which can fuel both reactors and atom bombs.
In 2009, senior staff members of the I.A.E.A. concluded in a confidential analysis that “Iran has sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device” based on highly enriched uranium.
The report indicates that the agency believes the Iranian arms program may still be moving ahead despite reports of its onetime suspension.
The seven categories of technology all bear on what can be interpreted as warhead design: how to turn uranium into bomb fuel, make conventional explosives that can trigger a nuclear blast, generate neutrons to spur a chain reaction and design nose cones for missiles.