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Iran tests top line nuclear warhead -

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Iran tests top line nuclear warhead

Barney Porter reported this story on Friday, November 6, 2009 12:30:00

SHANE MCLEOD: Tensions over Iran's nuclear program are set to be raised over reports the Iranians
have experimented with an advanced nuclear warhead design. The sophisticated technology allows for
the production of smaller and simpler warheads than older models and makes it easier to put a
nuclear warhead on a missile.

Some nuclear experts have described the revelation as breathtaking and the UN's nuclear watchdog is
calling on Iran to explain itself.

It comes as Iran and the Western powers continue to haggle over a draft nuclear cooperation
agreement designed to end their stand-off.

Barney Porter reports.

BARNEY PORTER: The technology involves what's known as a two point implosion device. It's one of
the most advanced forms of warhead design and its very existence is officially secret in both the
US and Britain.

It enables warheads to be made smaller which in turn makes it easier to arm a smaller missile with
a nuclear warhead.

ROBERT AYSON: If it's the case that Iran has been doing experimentation with this and if it's
particularly the case that they've been doing it recently, then that is a quite significant
development and it would basically make it very hard for the Iranians ever to say that we are just
doing this, our nuclear program is for civilian purposes because there is no known civilian
application for a two point implosion device.

BARNEY PORTER: Robert Ayson is the director of studies with the Strategic and Defence Studies
Centre at ANU.

ROBERT AYSON: What you need to get a nuclear bomb to go off is to get the uranium or plutonium into
a critical state and one way of doing that is to compress it severely so that it becomes extremely
dense. And probably the most advanced way of doing that is this two point implosion.

Imagine a rugby ball inside a wine case and you've basically got both ends of the wine case with
explosives and they detonate and they are simultaneous. That's what's kind of happening here.

And it takes very advanced machining and other abilities to actually get that timing and other
things right. So it's a technology that existing weapons stats guard very seriously.

BARNEY PORTER: Britain's Guardian newspaper is reporting the UN's nuclear watchdog, the
International Atomic Energy Agency has compiled a dossier of evidence suggesting Iranian scientists
may have already tested high explosive components of the design. It also says the IAEA has asked
Iran to respond to other evidence of nuclear weaponisation that it's gathered.

Earlier in an interview on CNN, the out-going head of the IAEA Dr Mohamed ElBaradei denied reports
that a leaked agency memo had warned he'd been underestimating Iran's military nuclear position.

MOHAMED ELBARADEI: That's absolute bonkers. It is not true at all. I mean I think every piece of
information we have about Iran, the world in fact knows about Iran, has been through our consistent
work in Iran for the last six years.

I mean there's a lot of hype. You know, we have to make sure that our reports are bear on the facts
and facts only. We cannot jump the gun. Everybody need to remember Iraq, you know. We have to be
very cautious in coming to a conclusion that can make the difference between war and peace.

BARNEY PORTER: Tehran and Washington have been at odds for years over Iran's nuclear program which
Western powers fear is a covert effort to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran has denied the claim, arguing it needs nuclear technology simply to generate electricity.

The latest development comes as the Western powers push Iran to accept a draft deal under which it
would send most of its low-enriched uranium abroad by the end of the year for further enrichment to
turn it into fuel for a reactor in Tehran.

This week an Iranian diplomat said additional talks were needed but the US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton says that's not an option.

HILARY CLINTON: This is a pivotal moment for Iran and we urge Iran to accept the agreement as
proposed. We will not alter it and we will not wait forever.

BARNEY PORTER: Dr Ayson says the latest revelation will have immediate implications.

ROBERT AYSON: It is going to be one of those very, very significant pieces of the jigsaw for those
who want to make the argument that measures need to be taken and quite serious measures need to be
taken against Tehran.

It is going to complicate possibly efforts to, Mr Obama's efforts for example to improve the
relationship with Iran. It is going to strengthen the hand of those who want a very serious
increase in the sanctions applied to Iran. And it will also be ammunition for those who want to
take or at least leave open the possibility of military action against Iran.

So I think it is strengthening the case of those who want to take a more aggressive approach and it
is weakening the approach of those who believe that either a bit more diplomacy or maybe even a
little bit more time is going to make the situation better.

SHANE MCLEOD: Dr Robert Ayson from the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at ANU, ending that
report from Barney Porter.