News

Secret' Report Details Iranian Nuclear Plans

by Maurizio Molinari La Stampa 28 Jun 97 p 10

Rome -- Iran will soon be in a position to launch a nuclear attack: In five or, at most, seven years from now Tehran will have at its disposal a nuclear bomb and missiles with a range of 3,000 km thanks to the Russians and to the Chinese. This is revealed in a top secret [preceding two words published in English] report, the result of cooperation among Western intelligence services, of which La Stampa has obtained a copy.

The typewritten document, 10 pages long, provides an update to 1997 of the development of Iran's nuclear program, regarding the pursual of which Sayyed Katami, the Islamic Republic's newly elected president, will be required to take a stance. "Iran's opportunity to endow itself with a nuclear weapon is the result of the decision to promote research and production in several locations simultaneously," the report states.

The first such location is Isfahan, the country's second city. The Iranian Organization for Atomic Energy run by Reza Amrollahi has put together a team of physicists, chemists, engineers, and electronics experts in a building located in the suburbs. The team has been tasked with finalizing "Projeh Vijeh" (the "Special Project"), in other words with producing the bomb by getting hold of explosives, detonators, and electrical component parts. In other areas around Isfahan, Reza Amrollahi has concentrated laboratories for the treatment of nuclear materiel and for the enrichment of uranium. According to diplomatic sources, the plan to spread out the research centers was put in place in order to hinder the possibility of an aerial bomb attack designed to destroy them.

Also, the small research reactors made in China are located in Isfahan. One of these works on the principle of natural uranium and heavy water and is seen as the pilot project that, it is planned, will make it possible to manufacture plutonium. But Tehran has asked for assistance from Beijing also in its efforts to procure enriched uranium through the construction of plants designed to convert the mineral itself. The uranium is mined in mines located in the Yiazd region. If Isfahan is the city of the scientists, it is in Busher, only a short distance from the Persian Gulf, that the actual nuclear power station itself is taking shape thanks to the Russians. Moscow joined the game when Germany's Siemens, that began work on the project in the Shah's time back in 1974, withdrew under pressure from Bonn. Also Argentina, Spain, and China refused to continue with the construction work, putting forward reservations regarding the risks of overlapping between Siemens' original structures and those that they would have put in place. Moscow, however, did not need to be asked twice.

The first part of the power station, known as IRAN-1, is designed to have an output capacity of 1,000 megawatts at a final cost of $800 million (some 1.3 trillion lire). It is being built by the Russian firm Zarubezh Atomernergostroy but it was Atomic Energy Minister Nikitovich Mikhaylov who pressed for a nuclear pact with Tehran. Mikhaylov and Amrollahi have now begun to discuss also the construction of the second part of the power station, known as IRAN- 2. The liaising is being done by Oleg Davidov, a former Russian deputy prime minister, who is following the program and its funding. It was Davidov who signed the contract for the nuclear program in Tehran two years ago, a contract that is due to expire in 2005. Since then Davidov has made several trips to Iran and it was to him that the ayatollahs' regime turned when it was in difficulty over payments.

Davidov's other problem comes from the Russian scientists working in Busher; they have posited the risk of accidents due to four factors: the difference in diameter between Russian containers and those put in place by Siemens; the difference between the Russian project comprising six horizontal generators and the German project consisting of four vertical ones; the construction of the upper part of the second reactor over the first reactor that was damaged back in the days of the Iran-Iraq war; and the seismic nature of the region in which the power station is being built.

Be that as it may, IRAN-1 is almost ready, quite a bit earlier than planned, and at this rate IRAN-2 could be ready before the 10-year contract expires. Once IRAN-1 is finished the Franco-Iranian company Eurodif is to supply the enriched uranium in accordance with an agreement that has already been signed.

But simply having the bomb on its own is not sufficient. One also needs a missile to carry it. That is why Tehran is devoting great attention to its ballistic program. The first result, already achieved, is the manufacture in Iran itself of 150 Nadong missiles of North Korean type. This is a modified version of the Scud-B missile that Saddam Husayn used in the Gulf War to strike at Israel and Saudi Arabia, and of the Scud-C that enjoys a range of 1,500 km. The Iranians built them after buying the technology, the component parts, and the raw materials from North Korea. However, we are talking here only of 1,500 km. That is a medium range that, while it allows the missiles to reach Israel, puts restrictions on Iran's freedom of action all the same.

That is why Tehran has begun research into efforts to come up with long-range missiles capable of carrying conventional and other warheads weighing some 770 kg to targets up to 3,000 km away, which means that they would thus be capable of reaching Europe. Moscow and Beijing are providing the Iranians with assistance in a secret center located at Parchin near Tehran. Everything revolves around a missile known as SS-4, which in NATO terminology is called "Sandal." It was Russia's deployment of this missile in Cuba that led to the famous crisis which brought the world to within inches of a nuclear war. Because of the arms reduction accords signed by Gorbachev, Moscow cannot actually supply Tehran with this missile, so the Iranians and the Russians made plans to include it in a space research project. Under this pretext, between 1995 and 1997, Moscow sent Tehran many of the component parts for making the missile as well as the laboratories to test it in and several RD-214 engines manufactured by a company called Energomash. The SS-4 is designed for a range of 2,000 km but the Iranians are increasing that to 3,000 km thank to the supply by the Chinese of the know-how necessary for a command and control system, disguised as satellite technology. Indeed satellite launchers are fairly similar to missile launchers for missiles such as the SS-4. Beijing is involved also in the construction of plants for the manufacture of solid propulsion fuel such as perchlorate ammonium for the modified SS-4's.