It is often claimed that Iran's "secret" and "clandestine" enrichment program was first "exposed" in 2003 by a terrorist cult. In fact, Iran's enrichment program was a continuation of a program that started under the Shah with the full support and encouragement of the United States. It was known to the IAEA for decades prior to 2002; was openly the subject of multiple international international agreements and radio broadcasts by Iran; and was thwarted repeatedly by the US which forced the IAEA and other countries to stop cooperating with Iran - eventually forcing Iran to obtain some of its enrichment technology from Pakistan. And according to the IAEA, to date there absolute no evidence that any of this technology was EVER used to make bombs.
The IAEA was aware of Iran's plans to develop uranium enrichment as early as 1983, when the IAEA was planning to assist Iran, only to be thwarted by US pressure:
U.S. in 1983 stopped IAEA from helping Iran make UF6 by Mark Hibbs, Bonn Nuclear Fuel August 4, 2003 Vol. 28, No. 16; Pg. 12 (EXCERPTED TEXT - fair use!)
Four years after the Islamic revolution, and two years after Iran's new leaders dusted off the nuclear program of the deposed Reza Shah Pahlevi, IAEA officials were keen to assist Iran in reactivating a research program to learn how to process U3O8 into UO2 pellets and then set up a pilot plant to produce UF6, according to IAEA documents obtained by NuclearFuel.
Sources said that when in 1983 the recommendations of an IAEA mission to Iran were passed on to the IAEA's technical cooperation program, the U.S. government then ''directly intervened'' to discourage the IAEA from assisting Iran in production of UO2 and UF6. ''We stopped that in its tracks,'' said a former U.S. official.
Entec was founded by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) in 1974. Its work was halted by the 1979 Islamic revolution, but in 1981 the new government concluded that the country's nuclear development should continue. In 1983, the AEOI then invited the IAEA to survey Entec and another installation, the Tehran Nuclear Research Center.
Herman Vera Ruiz, an IAEA official tasked by Deputy Director General Maurizio Zifferero to conduct a mission to Iran, visited Entec in October 1983. In November, he recommended to Zifferero and to Director General Hans Blix that the IAEA provide assistance to move Iran's nuclear research program forward.
Ruiz's report to Blix and Zifferero 10 years before make clear that Entec had spelled out to the IAEA that it was established ''with the main objective of acting as the center for the transfer and development of nuclear technology, as well as contribute to the formation of local expertise and manpower needed to sustain a very ambitious program in the field of nuclear power reactor technology and fuel cycle technology.''
After the IAEA mission to Iran, the Vienna agency was ready to help Iran move that program along. The summary of the report states that ''a timely cooperation of the IAEA (with Entec) is highly recommendable'' to overcome ''a lack of practical experience and perhaps... a lack of contact with other scientists in more advanced institutes.'' Ruiz wrote that ''Though the overall objectives of Entec are quite clear and comprehensive, the short and medium term goals are undergoing revision to adjust them to a more realistic approach following the (Iranian) government's instructions.''
''Though economics seem not to be a severe constraint for the training of the mostly young staff, they are presently having serious difficulties in finding training centers where to send their scientists. Here again the cooperation of the (IAEA) would be most welcome,'' the report summary concluded….
The Ruiz memo described Entec's nuclear engineering department in 1983 as having a dozen professionals, ''several of them having received post-graduate training in the U.S. and France.'' Fifteen scientists were employed by Entec's electronic and control department, using a laboratory to develop printed circuits to be used for neutron channels at the Tehran
Research Reactor (TRR).
The IAEA also was informed about Entec's largest department, for materials testing, which was responsible for fuel fabrication. ''Currently experimental work is being carried out on UO2 pellet
fabrication (sintering and grinding), cladding welding, and quality control,'' the memo stated.
According to sources, France had provided the basic know-how upon which the UO2 program was then based.
When Iran's nuclear program was restarted, this department had 23 scientists, specialized in physical chemistry, metallurgy, and other fields. Ruiz described its laboratory equipment as
''impressive,'' and containing much equipment for materials testing.
Entec also set up a chemistry department. ''Its main duty is to perform experiments for the conversion of (U3O8) to nuclear grade UO2. As a future step, it is intended to increase the capacity to a pilot plant scale to process about 30 kilograms of uranium equivalent per day,'' Entec officials told the IAEA.
The department had two subdivisions for uranium chemistry and analytical chemistry with a total of 20 scientists.
The memo included a list of proposed ''expert services'' which the IAEA would perform in eight fields relevant to work going on at all of Entec's departments. For fuel cycle programs, these were to be carried out in the French language, since most of Entec's relevant personnel were previously trained by French experts. The proposed items included assistance and training in UO2 pellet and fuel element production and quality control procedures, ''advice on the chemical engineering and design aspects of a pilot plant for fuel conversion,'' and ''advice on flow-sheet diagrams for uranium purification and conversion.'' Separately, after the IAEA mission, the agency proposed setting up 10 fellowships of between three and six months each, covering areas including chemical aspects of reactor fuel fabrication, chemical engineering and design aspects of pilot plants for uranium conversion, corrosion of nuclear materials, LWR fuel fabrication, and pilot plant development for production of nuclear grade UO2.
While some of the proposals quickly found approval by the IAEA's technical cooperation department, the former U.S. official said that after the U.S. objected in Vienna, the IAEA dropped plans to help Iran on fuel production and uranium conversion.
Instead, sources said, within five years Iran had set up a bilateral cooperation on fuel cycle related issues with China. That resulted in a deal to have China sell Iran a UF6 conversion plant to be set up at Entec. In 1997, however, China agreed to U.S. arguments to drop most outstanding nuclear commerce with Iran, including the construction of the UF6 plant.
At that time, sources reported that regardless of the agreement by China not to build the UF6 plant at Entec, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran reiterated to the IAEA that Iran would go ahead with construction of the facility (Nuclear Fuel, 30 Dec.'96, 1)."...
The plant was built at Entec beginning in 1997, and in 2000, Iran declared it to the IAEA.
Beginning in 1997, some Russian assistance was obtained to erect the UF6 plant, sources said. According to the IAEA's report on Iran to the board of governors in June, the UF6 plant is ''currently under construction.''
Iran, which until the revolution had relied on uranium processing know-how from France, then went ahead on its own and set up fuel cycle-related cooperation programs with other countries. After the US prevented the IAEA from helping Iran obtain the enrichment and fuel fabrication technology in 1983, the U.S. intervened with Argentine President Carlos Menem to prevent Invap from selling UO2 conversion technology to Iran (Nucleonics Week, 24 Sept.'92, 2) and in 1997, the U.S. also persuaded China not to build a UF6 plant in Iran (NF, 3 Nov.'97, 3). The IAEA was aware for several years of uranium exploration projects in Iran, and IAEA spokesman Melissa Fleming confirmed that IAEA officials had visited Iran's uranium mines as early as 1992 - more than a decade before the "exposure" of Iran's uranium enrichment project.
So much for a "hidden" nuclear enrichment program.
As the previous article notes, after the Chinese withdrew under US pressure from the contract to help build enrichment facilities , the Iranians - who had informed the IAEA of plans to build the enrichment facility - decided to go it alone:
Iran heavy water plant to open soon 29 December 2004 BBC Monitoring Middle East English (c) 2004 The British Broadcasting Corporation.
Text of report by Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) web site
Dr Mohammad Qannadzadeh-Maraghe'i stated that Iran could currently carry out operations ranging from the discovery of uranium to the management of recyclable waste, pointing out: After the Chinese refused to adhere to their commitments regarding the operationalization of the uranium conversion facilities (UCF) in Esfahan, no other country was prepared to cooperate with Iran either. However, in 1379 [year beginning 21 March 1990] our groups of scientists started working on this. The whole world told us that we would not be able to set up the Esfahan UCF project. However, thanks to the credits allocated to this by the government and the compensation we received from China, we managed to implement this project and it became operational on new year's day in 1383 [20 March 2004].
Oh, here's more - turns out that the IAEA knew about Iran importing uranium from China before 1991:
NUCLEAR COMMERCE AT ISSUEAS TEHRAN LEANS WESTWARD --- Mark Hibbs, Bonn, 9 December 1991 Nuclear Fuel Pg. 11 Vol. 16, No. 25
At the 1991 IAEA General Conference in late September, official concern was raised about three batches of
imported U3O8 in Iran that allegedly had not been reported to the IAEA.
Sources said the matter was clarified to the satisfaction of the U.S. government only when IAEA
officials, whom Iran had informed about the U3O8 transactions, agreed to share the information and confirm the presence of the material in Iran.
But In fact the whole world was aware of Iran's uranium enrichment plans much earlier. The Iranians reported ON NATIONAL RADIO that they were restarting their nuclear program and looking for uranium almost immediately after the revolution:
Iran: In Brief;Nuclear energy policy BBC Summary of World Broadcasts April 11, 1979, Wednesday Copyright 1979 The British Broadcasting Corporation BBC Summary of World Broadcasts
April 11, 1979, Wednesday
SECTION: PART 4 THE MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA; A. THE MIDDLE EAST; ME/6090/A/9;
LENGTH: 226 words
HEADLINE: Iran: In Brief;
Nuclear energy policy
SOURCE: Tehran home service 1030 gmt 9 Apr 79
(Text) Fereydun Sahabi, the Deputy Minister of Energy and Supervisor of the Atomic Energy Organization, in an interview with our correspondent said today [announcer read]: The activities of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, which converged irregularly in the past in order to create a consumer market in Iran for the industrial products of other countries, is to be cut back on a wide scale. He said that out of all the Organization's projects for setting-up nuclear plants for electricity generation in Iran, only the Bushehr atomic power plant, about 50 per cent of whose works have been completed, would be continued. The Supervisor emphasized that in future no foreign manpower will be utilized in this organization; he said that the Atomic Energy Organization's activities regarding prospecting and extraction of uranium would continue.
And, they reported the discovery of uranium and their plans to use it AGAIN, ON NATIONAL RADIO more than 20 years before the "exposure" of Iran's supposedly "hidden" uranium program:
In Brief;Discovery of uranium BBC Summary of World Broadcasts December 21, 1981, Monday
Copyright 1981 The British Broadcasting Corporation
BBC Summary of World Broadcasts
December 21, 1981, Monday
SECTION: Part 4 The Middle East and Africa; A. THE MIDDLE EAST; ME/6911/A/4;
LENGTH: 52 words
HEADLINE: In Brief;
Discovery of uranium
SOURCE: Tehran in Arabic for abroad 2000 gmt 19 Dec 81
The Iranian nuclear energy organization has announced the discovery of huge uranium deposits in four places in Iran (no details). The head of the organization, Reza Amrollah, has stated that the organization is to follow up with a detailed programme for nuclear research and scientific study.
IRAN;URANIUM FIND BBC Summary of World Broadcasts January 22, 1985, Tuesday Copyright 1985 The British Broadcasting Corporation BBC Summary of World Broadcasts January 22, 1985, Tuesday
SECTION: Part 4 The Middle East, Africa and Latin America; Weekly Economic Report; A. ECONOMIC AND TECHNICAL; 1. THE MIDDLE EAST ; ME/W1322/A1/4;
LENGTH: 204 words
Tehran home service 1930 gmt 12 Jan 85
After three years of unsparing efforts made by the experts and workers of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, deposits of more than 5,000 t of uranium have been discovered in the Saghand region of Yazd, central Iran. According to a report filed by our correspondent, the Minister of Labour and Social affairs, Mr Sarhadizadeh; the Head of the Budget and Plan Organisation, Mr Banki; the Deputy Prime Minister and Head of the Atomic Energy Organization, Mr Amrellahi; together with some experts of the two organisations, paid a visit to the Saghand area in order to inspect the uranium mines. At the end of this visit Mr Banki said in an interview that deposits of uranium, iron, lead and zinc had been discovered in the area, enabling the Islamic Republic of Iran to make use of these huge mines and hence lay the foundations for the independence of the country. Mr Amrellahi also expressed assurances that within the next two years the Saghand mine would be one of the biggest uranium mines in the Middle East region and would enable Iran to have part of the Nuclear industry at its disposal. He also stressed: the availability of uranium will be a big help to the economic infrastructure of the country.
IRAN;NUCLEAR PROGRAMME BBC Summary of World Broadcasts March 30, 1982, Tuesday Copyright 1982 The British Broadcasting Corporation BBC Summary of World Broadcasts
March 30, 1982, Tuesday
SECTION: Part 4 The Middle East and Africa; Weekly Economic Report; A. ECONOMIC AND TECHNICAL; 1. THE MIDDLE EAST; ME/W1178/A1/1;
LENGTH: 190 words
IRNA in English 2005 gmt 16 Mar 82
Tehran, 16th March: The head of the Esfahan nuclear technology centre, Dr Sa'idi, said in Esfahan today that Iran was taking concrete measures for importing nuclear technology, while at the same time utilizing Iranian expertise in the field. He said the decision was made in the wake of discovery of uranium resources in the country and after Iran's capability for developing the industry had been established. Iran's plans for developing nuclear capability are conceived in three distinct phases: During a short-range plan Iran will design and manufacture a subcritical reactor, followed by a nuclear reactor and a nuclear plant during the subsequent mid-term and long-term planning. Recently a budget of 220,000,000 rials was appropriated for a short- term research operation in the field. Already a preliminary design of the subcritical reactor has been completed, and its detailed designing is expected to start out later in March 1982. Dr Sa'idi said he expected the task would be fulfilled by September 1982. He said he was hopeful that in another six months Iran would develop a capability for producing uranium ingots.
Iran's interest in uranium enrichment was so "secret" and "clandestine" in fact that they had discussed the importation of uranium from Niger (where Iran has an interest in a uranium mine from the Shah's days) AGAIN ON NATIONAL RADIO
Iran-Niger uranium co-operation BBC Summary of World Broadcasts February 28, 1984, Tuesday Copyright 1984 The British Broadcasting Corporation BBC Summary of World Broadcasts
February 28, 1984, Tuesday
SECTION: Part 4 The Middle East, Africa and Latin America; Weekly Economic Report; IV - MIDDLE EAST, AFRICA AND LATIN AMERICA; ME/W1276/i;
LENGTH: 65 words
HEADLINE: Iran-Niger uranium co-operation
On 14th February Tehran radio, reporting a meeting in Tehran between the Niger Foreign Minister and Minister of Mines and Industry and Reza Amrollahi, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, said they had discussed bilateral trade and had emphasized that they could co-operate in training and in exploitation of Niger's rich uranium mines by sending Iranian experts to Niger.
OH MY GOODNESS! SUCH A "SECRET" and "CLANDESTINE" NUCLEAR PROGRAM THIS WAS!
Oh, but wait, didn't iran "hide" the enrichment facilities it built at Natanz?
Nope. Wrong again. Iran was under no obligation to report the existence of the facilities - even though as previously shown above, Iran's enrichment plans were not a secret anyway.
Although Iran is a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and has concluded a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA, it has not concluded an Additional Protocol to its agreement. The Additional Protocol would provide for more rigorous inspections, including inspections of undeclared nuclear facilities. On December 13, ElBaradei called upon Iran to conclude such a protocol. Iran, however, is not required to allow visits to the Arak and Natanz sites under its current agreements with the IAEA."SOURCE: IAEA to visit two 'secret' nuclear sites in Iran - Arms Control Today January 1, 2003
"A spokesman for the U.S. Department of State asserted in a press briefing last week that Iran was out of compliance with its IAEA obligations because it had failed to notify the IAEA of its intent to build the facilities 180 days prior to construction.SOURCE: U.S. BRIEFED SUPPLIERS GROUP IN OCTOBER ON SUSPECTED IRANIAN ENRICHMENT PLANT Nuclear Fuel December 23, 2002
IAEA officials told NuclearFuel Dec. 18 that was not the case. Rumyantsev's assertion that Iran did not violate its commitments ''was correct,'' one official said.
In 1992, after the Gulf War, the IAEA Board of Governors recommended by consensus that member states provide design information to the IAEA 180 days in advance of construction. Iran, however, singularly raised objections to that. Compliance with the board's recommendation, an IAEA official said, has since been ''voluntary.'' A similar provision is contained in the Additional Protocol for integrated IAEA safeguards, which thus far Iran has refused to join and which so far is not binding.
Infcirc-153, the model safeguards protocol for member states of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), including Iran, discusses facility design information in Articles 42-47. But any specific requirement on a member state for reporting design information and notification to the IAEA of an intention to construct a nuclear facility subject to safeguards is handled in confidential Subsidiary Arrangements, which are annexed to the safeguards agreement and are country-specific.
In the case of Iran, the Subsidiary Arrangements for Infcirc-214 -- Iran's safeguards agreement with the IAEA -- require Iran to notify the IAEA of any new nuclear facility and to provide information on the design no later than 60 days prior to the introduction of nuclear material into the facility.
In early safeguards agreements such as Iran's -- it dates from 1974 -- member states were allowed considerable freedom in notifying the IAEA of new nuclear facility construction, said one former U.S. official, ''practically right up until they loaded fuel.''
"Iran did not have to declare that it was building a pilot plant until 180 days before it expected to introduce nuclear material into the plant."SOURCE: Furor over fuel; Iran. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists May 1, 2003 Albright, David; Hinderstein, Corey
"Iran may not have contravened the NPT by keeping Natanz under wraps. The safeguards agreement, in force in Iran since 1974, mandates only that countries divulge design information on such a facility 180 days before it receives nuclear material. During ElBaradei's visit, Iran agreed to turn over design data much earlier, becoming the last NPT party to sign such an agreement. It has since provided preliminary design information on Natanz to IAEA, which is now drawing up a safeguards plan for the site."SOURCE: Science magazine, June 13, 2003