Easy to Explain PMD Issue on the Table in IAEA Talks with IranPosted: February 9, 2014
The following is a quick explanation by Dr. Yousaf Butt of some important developments this weekend in negotiations between the IAEA and Iran. I really appreciate our good friend Yousaf using his considerable technical expertise to explain things like this to us simple country lawyers.
Easy to Explain PMD Issue on the Table in IAEA Talks with Iran
By Dr. Yousaf Butt
The IAEA and Iran just released a joint statement on the talks that took place this weekend.
The agreement is a welcome development. The agreed measures are:
1. Providing mutually agreed relevant information and managed access to the Saghand mine in Yazd;
2. Providing mutually agreed relevant information and managed access to the Ardakan concentration plant;
3. Submission of an updated Design Information Questionnaire (DIQ) for the IR-40 Reactor;
4. Taking steps to agree with the Agency on the conclusion of a Safeguards Approach for the IR-40 Reactor;
5. Providing mutually agreed relevant information and arranging for a technical visit to Lashkar Ab’ad Laser Centre;
6. Providing information on source material, which has not reached the composition and purity suitable for fuel fabrication or for being isotopically enriched, including imports of such material and on Iran’s extraction of uranium from phosphates; and
7. Providing information and explanations for the Agency to assess Iran’s stated need or application for the development of Exploding Bridge Wire detonators.
This last element is part of the “Possible Military Dimensions” file that has hung up Iran’s case at the UN Security Council.
It is refreshing to see that this issue (7) will finally gain a likely resolution.
Frankly, it is surprising that it has taken this long for the Agency to get to the point of resolving the still-outstanding issue of the use of “Exploding Bridge Wire” (EBW) detonators. The Agency felt that these EBWs were for nuclear weapons (per the November 2011 IAEA report).
But there are many non-nuclear weapons uses for EBWs, especially for an oil-rich nation like Iran. One manufacturer of EBWs explains that these have “…applications in explosive welding of piping and tubing, seismic studies, oil well perforating & hard rock mining”
The manufacturer is explicit that EBWs “…have found a wide range of applications within the mining, explosive metal welding and energy exploration field. Many of these uses could not be accomplished using conventional blasting equipment without a compromise of safety.”
Furthermore, Iran was not secretive about its work on EBWs. As the November 2011 IAEA report states: Iran “provided the Agency with a copy of a paper relating to EBW development work presented by two Iranian researchers at a conference held in Iran in 2005. A similar paper was published by the two researchers at an international conference later in 2005.”
Would Iran be so open in pursuing a secretive nuclear weapon technology?
The Agency, however, noted, “Iran’s development of such detonators and equipment is a matter of concern…” It really is not given its other civilian (and conventional military) uses, and Iran’s relative openness in pursuing the technology.
As long ago as 2011 Robert Kelley, a former IAEA inspector, stated: “The Agency is wrong. There are lots of applications for EBWs….To be wrong on this point, and then to try to misdirect opinion shows a bias towards their desired outcome…. That is unprofessional.”
News reports have cast the agreement today as Iran finally providing openness on the issue — but Iran has told the IAEA before that the EBWs were for non-nuclear weapons uses.
Clearly, this issue could have been resolved long ago. But it is a positive development that the IAEA seems willing now to listen to reasonable explanations and hopefully the issue will likely – finally – soon be off the table.