Ex-Nuke Inspector Rejects IAEA Iran Bomb-Test-Chamber Claim


by Gareth Porter

A former inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency   (IAEA) has repudiated its major new claim that Iran built an   explosives chamber to test components of a nuclear weapon and   carry out a simulated nuclear explosion.  The IAEA claim that a foreign scientist – identified in news reports   as Vyacheslav Danilenko – had been involved in building the alleged   containment chamber has now been denied firmly by Danilenko himself   in an interview with Radio Free Europe published Friday.

The latest report by the IAEA cited “information   provided by Member   States” that Iran had constructed “a large explosives containment   vessel in which to conduct hydrodynamic experiments” – meaning   simulated explosions of nuclear weapons – in its Parchin military   complex in 2000.

The report said it had “confirmed” that a “large cylindrical object”   housed at the same complex had been “designed to contain the   detonation of up to 70 kilograms of high explosives.”  That amount of   explosives, it said, would be “appropriate” for testing a detonation   system to trigger a nuclear weapon.

But former IAEA inspector Robert Kelley has denounced the agency’s   claims about such a containment chamber as “highly misleading.”

Kelley, a nuclear engineer who was the IAEA’s chief weapons inspector   in Iraq and is now a senior research fellow at the Stockholm   International Peace Research Institute, pointed out in an interviewwith the Real News Network that a cylindrical chamber designed to   contain 70 kg of explosives, as claimed by the IAEA, could not   possibly have been used for hydrodynamic testing of a nuclear weapon   design, contrary to the IAEA claim.

“There are far more explosives in that bomb than could be contained   by this container,” Kelley said, referring to the simulated explosion   of a nuclear weapon in a hydrodynamic experiment.

Kelley also observed that hydrodynamic testing would not have been   done in a container inside a building in any case. “You have to be   crazy to do hydrodynamic explosives in a container,” he said.   “There’s no reason to do it. They’re done outdoors on firing tables.”

Kelley rejected the IAEA claim that the alleged cylindrical chamber   was new evidence of an Iranian weapons program. “We’ve been led by   the nose to believe that this container is important, when in fact   it’s not important at all,” Kelley said.

The IAEA report and unnamed “diplomats” implied that a “former Soviet   nuclear weapons scientist,” identified in the media as Danilenko, had   helped build the alleged containment vessel at Parchin.

But their claims conflict with one another as well as with readily   documented facts about Danilenko’s work in Iran.

The IAEA report does not deny that Danilenko – a Ukrainian who worked   in a Soviet-era research institute that was identified mainly with   nuclear weapons – was actually a specialist on nanodiamonds. The   report nevertheless implies a link between Danilenko and the purported   explosives chamber at Parchin by citing a publication by Danilenko as   a source for the dimensions of the alleged explosives chamber.

Associated Press reported Nov. 11 that unnamed diplomats suggested   Volodymyr Padalko, a partner of Danilenko in a nanodiamond business   who was described as Danilenko’s son-in-law, had contradicted   Danilenko’s firm denial of involvement in building a containment   vessel for weapons testing. The diplomats claimed Padalko had told   IAEA investigators that Danilenko had helped build “a large steel   chamber to contain the force of the blast set off by such explosives   testing.”

But that claim appears to be an effort to confuse Danilenko’s well-  established work on an explosives chamber for nanodiamond synthesis   with a chamber for weapons testing, such as the IAEA now claims was   built at Parchin.

One of the unnamed diplomats described the steel chamber at Parchin   as “the size of a double decker bus” and thus “much too large” for   nanodiamonds.

But the IAEA report itself made exactly the opposite argument,   suggesting that the purported steel chamber at Parchin was based on   the design in a published paper by Danilenko.

The report said the alleged explosives chamber was designed to   contain “up to 70 kg of high explosives” which is claims would be   “suitable” for testing what it calls a “multipoint initiation system”   for a nuclear weapon.

But a 2008 slide show on systems for nanodiamond synthesis posted on   the internet by the U.S.-based nanotechnology company NanoBlox shows   that the last patented containment chamber built by Danilenko and   patented in 1992, with a total volume of 100 cubic metres, was   designed for the use of just 10 kg of explosives.

An unnamed member state had given the IAEA a purported Iranian   document in 2008 describing a 2003 test of what the agency   interpreted to be a possible “high explosive implosion system for a   nuclear weapon.”

David Albright, director of a Washington, D.C. think tank who   frequently passes on information from IAEA officials to the news   media, told this writer in 2009 that the member state in question was   “probably Israel.”

Although the process of making “detonation nanodiamonds” uses   explosives in a containment chamber, the chamber would bear little   resemblance to one used for testing a nuclear bomb’s initiation   system.

The production of diamonds does not require the same high degree of   precision in simultaneous explosions as the initiator for a nuclear   device. And unlike the explosives used in a multipoint initiation   system, the explosives used for making synthetic nanodiamonds must be   under water in a closed pool, as Danilenko noted in a 2010 PowerPoint   presentation.

Having endorsed the IAEA’s claims, Albright concedes in a Nov. 13   article that the IAEA report “did not provide [sic] Danilenko’s   involvement, if any, in this chamber.”

In an interview with Radio Free Europe Friday, Danilenko denied that   he has any expertise in nuclear weapons, saying, “I understand   absolutely nothing in nuclear physics.” He also denied that he   participated in “modeling warheads” at the research institute in   Russia where he worked for three decades.

Danilenko further denied doing any work in Iran that did not relate   to “dynamic detonation synthesis of diamonds” and said he has “strong   doubts” that Iran had a nuclear weapons program during those years.

Albright and three co-authors published an account of Danilenko’s   work in Iran this week seeking to give credibility to the IAEA   suggestion that he worked on the containment chamber for a nuclear   weapons program.

The Albright article, published on the website of the Institute for   Science and International Security, said that Danilenko approached   the Iranian embassy in 1995 offering his expertise on detonation   diamonds, and later signed a contract with Syed Abbas Shahmoradi who   responded to Danilenko’s query.

Albright identifies Shahmoradi as the “head of Iran’s secret nuclear   sector involved in the development of nuclear weapons,” merely   because Shahmoradi later headed the Physics Research Center, which   the IAEA argues has led Iran’s nuclear weapons research.

But in late 1995, Shahmoradi was at the Sharif University of   Technology, which is a leading centre for nanodiamonds in Iran.   Albright argues that this is evidence supporting his suspicion that   nanodiamonds were a cover for his real work, because the main center   for nanodiamond research is at Malek Ashtar University of Technology   rather than at Sharif University.

However, Sharif University had just established an Institute of   Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in 2005 that was intended to become   the hub for nanotechnology research activities and strategy planning   for Iran. So Sharif University and Shahmoradi would have been the   logical choice to contract one of the world’s leading specialists on   nanodiamonds.

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