Exposé: Iran’s Covert High Explosive Facilities in Parchin Violate 2015 Nuclear Accord

A report released by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) on Oct. 23 offers new information and conclusions regarding the key role the high explosive test site in Parchin plays in the development of an Iranian nuclear warhead. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was never given access to the Parchin military site and so its regular reports on Iran’s implementation of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran (JCPOA) never reflected this violation.

The ISIS draws its data mainly from the Iranian nuclear archive clandestinely obtained by Israel and publicly released by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on April 30, 2018. He bared only a small section of that archive, which revealed that in 2003, Iran was operating a nuclear weapons program codenamed AMAD for building five nuclear weapons and preparing an underground nuclear test.

The ISIS assessed how the facilities at the Parchin high explosives site related to this program. Those activities were halted in late 2003 or early 2004, but, some time in 2004, the nuclear program was substantially restructured to better evade detection by the IAEA and Western intelligence. Meanwhile, the program covertly advanced. Incumbent Iranian president Hassan Rouhani was then national security adviser to the supreme leader and in charge of executing this plan.

Project 110 for developing a nuclear warhead in the AMAD program was divided into two parts, covert and overt. The latter part, relating to neutron sources used to initiate a nuclear explosion, went forward subsequently, unobserved at Parchin.

The Institute’s report on this facility is highly detailed.

  • The main building is shown holding a large high explosive test chamber, belying Iran’s past and present claims that there was no chamber in that building.
  • An underground high explosives storage bunker, from which explosives were taken for experimental devices, reposed in a small building nearby. This building was demolished and rebuilt in 2012.
  • Another building was dismantled in 2012 and not rebuilt, probably used to mate explosives and detonators for later experimentation.
  • Another building not addressed by the international watchdog is situated at the north end of the site and built into the hillside. This one was extensively modified after 2012 under a concealing pink translucent tarp.
  • The nuclear archive found by Israel also revealed another building, backstopped in the hillside, that was evidently designed for projectile impact studies. It contains a smaller high explosive chamber and a flash X-ray system for examining small-scale, high explosive tests, such as those of hemispherical components of the AMAD program.
  • Mohmmad Mehdi Tehranchi, a physicist who studied in Russia, was in charge of the project in those years. At present, he is acting president of Islamic Azad University and affiliated with the SPND, the direct descendent of the AMAD program and the most recent incarnation of Iran’s nuclear weapons effort. The IAEA never interviewed him.

 

The Institute has come to the following conclusions:

  1. The nuclear archive shows that Iran conducted at Parchin more high explosive tests relating to nuclear weapons development than previously thought. There was much more going on there than the feasibility and scientific studies or acquisition of technical competences which the watchdog “revealed” in its 2015 report.
  2. Iran appears to be preserving, curating and improving its nuclear weapons capabilities in readiness for a decision to reconstitute a full-blown nuclear weapons program at a later date. (The 2015 nuclear accord expires in 2025.). Iran’s failure to destroy all the documents contained in the nuclear archive – and also apparently the equipment used in the activities revealed there – is at odds with Tehran’s commitment when signing the JCPA that “under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons.”

The accord was co-signed with the United States, the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany. President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the agreement last May.

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