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Suspected drawings of nuclear test site found in Iran

file photo of Iranian nuclear facility at Arak.
by Michael Adler
Vienna (AFP) Feb 08, 2006
Iran has design drawings for building a 400-metre (more than 1,300 feet) deep shaft that is clearly for underground, possibly nuclear, weapons testing, diplomats told AFP Wednesday.

But the diplomats said there were no indications that Iran, which experts believe is years away from being able to build an atomic bomb, has constructed or plans to build such a site.

The document was part of US intelligence which has been made available to the UN nuclear watchdog and which has been presented to Iran, said a diplomat, who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Officials from the Vienna-based watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency refused to comment but an IAEA report on January 31 said the UN watchdog had presented Iran with "information that had been made available to the agency" and which concerned work related to high explosives.

Iran has dismissed this information as "related to baseless allegations," according to the report which did not provide details about the high explosives data.

The report said the IAEA was also looking into "alleged undeclared studies" to build a secret plant for converting uranium, a step in making nuclear reactor fuel that can also be bomb material, and "the design of a missile re-entry vehicle, all of which could have a military nuclear dimension."

A Western diplomat said the design for the underground shaft, with sensors in it to be connected "to a control center 10 kilometres (six miles) away" was "clearly designed for some underground testing," and that this could be nuclear although the design did not indicate that this was for atomic weapons testing.

The diplomat said the IAEA had asked the United States for permission to show the classified document to the Iranians.

The information was part of extensive Farsi-language computer files and reports which the United States has obtained and feels is the best sign yet that Iran seeks to make nuclear weapons.

The IAEA was first briefed on this last July.

US officials are confident the data is genuine, diplomats said, even though some analysts have criticized it as unreliable since it is believed to come from only one source.

The data concerns a program called Project 111 under which the Iranians have also studied how to design a ballistic missile to handle a load that is not named as a possible nuclear warhead. The word "nuclear" is not mentioned in any of the Project 111 documents.

But the "package" could only be for this purpose due to the height at which the missile is set to explode on re-entry, diplomats said.

"The shaft design was part of Project 111," the Western diplomat said.

The IAEA has been investigating Iran for three years after US allegations that it is carrying out secret atomic weapons development under the guise of a nuclear program which Tehran says is a peaceful effort to generate electricity.

The IAEA's 35-nation board of governors voted last week to report Iran to the UN Security Council over unresolved issues in a move that opens the door to punitive action.

The IAEA report of January 31 also said that Iran had handed over a document on how to make uranium hemispheres whose only use would be in making nuclear weapons.

Iran claims not to have used the information for weapons work as it says it was given the document without asking for it by an international nuclear smuggling network which offered it technology and parts in 1987.

The IAEA has also "shared with Iran" new information it has that Iran may have taken deliveries of sophisticated P-2 centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium, despite Tehran saying it has only received P-2 designs.

The Washington Post newspaper Wednesday reported on the alleged underground shaft designs.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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