A Russian nuclear physicist could have played a key role in helping Iran to come close to developing nuclear weapons, The Washington Post said on Monday.
Citing unnamed diplomatic and intelligence sources, the newspaper said former Soviet nuclear expert Vyacheslav Danilenko “allegedly tutored Iranians over several years on building high-precision detonators of the kind used to trigger a nuclear chain reaction.”
The director general of the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, is due to present his latest report on the Iranian nuclear program on Monday.
According to The Washington Post, the intelligence update contained in the report indicates that Iran continued field tests and computer simulations aimed at developing nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles after 2003 despite previous reports that Tehran had stopped its nuclear weapons research at that time.
The new assessment of Iran’s nuclear weapons research shows that Tehran has not yet built a nuclear weapon but has all the necessary technical information to create one.
The Washington Post said the Russian scientist, who was hired in the mid-1990s by Iran’s Physics Research Center, helped Iranians build and test a device known as an R265 generator, which triggers a nuclear chain reaction through a series of detonations of powerful explosives.
“Danilenko offered assistance to the Iranians over at least five years, giving lectures and sharing research papers on developing and testing an explosives package that the Iranians apparently incorporated into their warhead design,” the paper said.
Danilenko, who had been reportedly contacted by IAEA investigators, acknowledged his role in assisting Iranian scientists but “said he thought his work was limited to assisting civilian engineering projects,” The Washington Post cited officials with access to IAEA confidential files.
There is no evidence that the Russian authorities knew of Danilenko’s activities in Iran, the paper said, adding that Pakistani and North Korean scientists also helped Iranian experts in theoretical design work.
The sketchy details of the upcoming report fueled Western media speculations of an impending Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, as well as U.S. and British military contingency planning in the aftermath of this strike.