Iran's Nuclear and Missile Programs
November 20, 2007
The attached presentation summarizes is the second of three briefings prepared on Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. The first covered the consequences of Iranian use of nuclear weapons, and of a possible nuclear exchange between Iran and Israel or the gulf states. It is available at http://www.csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/071119_iran.is&nuclearwar.pdf.
The second presentation covers what is and is not known about Iran’s nuclear weapons and missile developments. It is important to note that it does not speculate where hard data are lacking. It does not make worst-case judgments, or attempt to go beyond the evidence provided by the IAEA and unclassified judgments of the US intelligence community.
No official source has yet claimed to have a “smoking gun” that shows conclusively Iran is developing a nuclear weapons production program. At the same time, the available evidence provides strong indications that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program, and is seeking to deploy a long-range missile force that can be armed with nuclear weapons.
Specifically, Iran is known to have made significant efforts in all of the following areas, most of which have been tracked by the IAEA for some time:
- Beryllium (neutron reflector)
- Polonium (neutron initiator)
- Plutonium separation
- Uranium enrichment
- Machining of Uranium hemispheres
- Re-entry vehicle design
- Acquisition of North Korean (Chinese) weapons design? AQ Khan network transfers
- High explosive lenses
At the same time, the briefing points out that there are many key uncertainties that affect Iran’s nuclear program:
- When centrifuge plants will be able to produce fissile material and at what rate.
- State of “passive” testing of key components and weapons assemblies using non-fissile material.
- Efforts in boosted and fusion weapons design.
- Criteria for reliability and safety.
- Intentions with heavy water reactor project.
- Remote and unknown site activity, including P-2 centrifuge design, and weapons and warhead design.
- Plans for testing; progression from device to weapons.
- Force deployment plans once weapons are available.
- Dates for ability to test first device; first weapon, and deployable bombs and warheads: 2010-2015?
The data gathered for this report also shows that major uncertainties and differences exist from source to source in describing Iran’s long-range ballistic missile programs, including key factors like the number and nature of Iran’s programs and the range-payload, set-up and reaction time, accuracy, and reliability of the systems that are known to exist.
These uncertainties might be resolved in if key intelligence judgments were declassified. Three critical areas need to be addressed in fully characterizing Iranian efforts to design nuclear weapons and create missile warheads:
- There are no reliable unclassified surveys of the nuclear weapons and dual-use technology, components, and literature Iran is known to have imported.
- Iran has denied it has made efforts to design nuclear weapons and create missile warheads, but the national intelligence that led the IAEA to seek clarification about Iranian efforts like the “Green Salt Project” indicate that there may be more evidence about such Iranian activity than have been declassified to date.
- Britain and the US have not fully declassified the level of Chinese and North Korean nuclear weapons and warhead design data made available to Iran through the AQ Khan network and related sources.