Monday, May 25, 2009

North Korea and Iran on WMD

An analysis by the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control

April 7, 2009

Today, prosecutors in New York revealed that during the past three years, Chinese firms have sold Iran materials useful for making nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. The revelations were the product of an extensive investigation into suspicious transactions that used New York banks and Chinese front companies, and that were carried out by the Chinese firm Limmt (Dalian) Metallurgy and Minerals Co., Ltd. The Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control is proud to have aided in the investigation.

Although it is uncertain what Iran actually produced with the materials it imported, Iran’s active nuclear and missile programs make the sales alarming. Many of the materials were on the list of sensitive nuclear and missile items controlled for export internationally.

According to the indictment released by the prosecutors, the following items were among those exported:


This material is used to make missile nose cones, missile nozzle throat inserts, and missile jet vanes (which steer the missile engine exhaust and thus guide the missile). The material is controlled for export as a powder, which can be formed into missile parts by pouring the powder into molds and sintering it.

Graphite cylinders for EDM
Liaoning Industry and Trade Co. Ltd. (a front company for Limmt) sold Iran graphite cylinders stated to be for electrical discharge machines. These machines are controlled for export because they are capable of making, with high accuracy, parts with complex forms. Such parts include explosive, hemispherical components for nuclear weapons, end caps for gas centrifuges used to enrich uranium to nuclear weapon grade or reactor grade, and crucibles for casting liquid uranium or plutonium for nuclear weapon cores. The buyer in Iran was Aban Commercial and Industrial Company.

Graphite is controlled for export as a material if it meets certain specifications that make it suitable for being manufactured into rocket nozzles and re-entry vehicle nose tips. The graphite exported to Iran met those specifications.

High-strength aluminum
Aban also ordered high-strength aluminum from Liaoning. The aluminum was of a strength sufficient to make components for gas centrifuges that enrich uranium to nuclear weapon grade or reactor grade, although considerable machining would be required to make such components. The aluminum was not controlled for export as a nuclear item because it was not in the form of tubes or cylinders. The aluminum was, however, strong enough to be on the control list of military items.

Maraging steel
SC (Dalian) Industry & Trade Co. sold Iran 25 tons of maraging steel that was apparently controlled for export for nuclear reasons. Because of its high tensile strength, maraging steel is one of the few materials strong enough to be used to make gas centrifuge parts. Gas centrifuges are, as stated above, used to enrich uranium. The buyer was the Amin Industrial Complex, which has two addresses, a telephone number, and a fax number identical to those of Khorasan Metallurgy, an Iranian firm that, according to the United Nations, produces centrifuge parts. Khorasan is linked to Iran’s Ministry of Defense and has been sanctioned (punished) by both the European Union and the United Nations.

Maraging steel can also be used to make motor cases for solid-fueled rockets, rocket propellant tanks, and rocket interstages.


In addition to describing materials, the indictment contained information about Iranian companies. Three of the companies mentioned are subsidiaries of the Ammunition Industries Group (AMIG), an entity affiliated with Iran’s Ministry of Defense. AMIG is also the largest industrial group of Iran’s Defense Industries Organization (DIO). According to the United Nations, some DIO subordinates have been involved in component manufacturing for Iran’s centrifuge program. As stated above, one of the entities listed has the same contact information as Khorasan Metallurgy, including two addresses, one telephone number and one fax number.

Shahid Sayyade Shirazi Industries
This company is a subsidiary of the Ammunition Industries Group (AMIG), which is the largest industrial group of Iran’s Defense Industries Organization (DIO) and affiliated with the Ministry of Defense. Both DIO and AMIG (along with entities they own or control, or those acting on their behalf or at their direction) have been sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council, the European Union and the United States for their links to proliferation. Some DIO subordinates have been "involved in Iran's centrifuge program making components," and in Iran's missile program, according to the U.N. Security Council. Composite rotors for the P-2 centrifuge have been manufactured in a workshop situated on a DIO site, and several DIO workshops help produce centrifuge components. This company also “produces large caliber items and their cartridge cases,” according to the AMIG web site. Its parent AMIG manufactures ammunition, mortar bombs, pyrotechnics, anti-tank and sea mines, hand grenades and detonators, and DIO produces an array of defense equipment.

Yazd Metallurgy Industries
This company too is a subsidiary of the Ammunition Industries Group (AMIG).

Khorasan Metallurgy
This company has been sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council and the European Union for links to proliferation, as stated above. Khorasan is a subsidiary of the Ammunition Industries Group (AMIG), and is involved in the production of centrifuge components, according to the United Nations. It also manufactures cutting tools and products such as drills, milling cutters, taps, reamers, and compound tools.

Amin Industrial Complex
As stated above, this company shares a fax number and a P.O. Box with Khorasan Metallurgy Industries, as well as a street address and telephone number.


LIMMT Dalian Metallurgy & Minerals Co.
The prosecutors indicted one Chinese entity, LIMMT Dalian Metallurgy & Minerals Co. This company had already been sanctioned by the United States in February 2009 for engaging in proliferation activities, and was added to the Specially Designated National list maintained by the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control on June 13, 2006. According to the Treasury Department, during the year prior to its designation the company supplied, or attempted to supply, "controlled items" to "Iran's military and missile organizations.” This company was also listed by the Japanese government in 2007 as an entity of concern for proliferation relating to missiles and it was sanctioned by the United States in 2004 and 2005 under the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000. LIMMT is also known as Dalian Sunny Industries, LIMMT (Dalian FTZ) Economic and Trade Organization, LIMMT Economic and Trade Company Ltd., and LIMMT (Dalian FTZ) Minmetals and Metallurgy Co., Ltd.

Iran's Nuclear Timetable
Updated March 1, 2009

Iran’s bank of rapidly spinning centrifuges has produced a stockpile of low-enriched uranium, able to fuel nuclear reactors, but able also to fuel nuclear weapons if further enriched by re-circulating it through the centrifuges. The re-circulation raises the concentration of the uranium isotope U-235, which fissions in nuclear weapons such as the one dropped on Hiroshima.

Based on the amount of low-enriched uranium Iran has stockpiled, and the amount it is believed to be producing each month, the Wisconsin Project estimates that by December 2008, Iran had accumulated enough U-235 to fuel one bomb quickly. "Quickly," in this context, means two to three months – about the time it would take Iran to raise the level of U-235 in its uranium stockpile from 3.5 percent to over 90 percent.

As Iran increases the number of centrifuge machines it is operating, and increases its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, it will consolidate its status as a "virtual" nuclear weapon state.

Iran's progress towards this status as of March 1, 2009 is estimateda below:

Amount of U-235 contained in Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium:
25.4 kg b
Amount of this U-235 produced each month:
1.6 kg c
Amount of this U-235 required to fuel a first-generation implosion bombd:
21.6 kg e
Date by which Iran probably had stockpiled the above:
December 2008 f
Number of additional months needed to convert this low-enriched uranium to weapon-grade g:
Two to three h
Date by which Iran may have enough U-235 to fuel a second bomb:
October 2009 i
Additional estimates: Moving from reactor-grade to weapon-grade uranium

Amount of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) enriched to 3.5 percent U-235 now on hand:
1,074 kg j
Average daily production rate of this low-enriched UF6:
2.28 kg k
Amount of this low-enriched UF6 needed to produce a bomb’s worth of weapon-grade UF6:
914 kg l
Number of separative work units (SWUs)m needed to accomplish the above:
840 n
Number of first generation IR-1 centrifuges being fed with UF6 at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant as of February 1, 2009:
3,936 o
Number of SWUs these centrifuges appear to be producing per year:
2,000 p
Total number of centrifuges installed or being installed at Natanz, as of February 1, 2009:
5,904 q
Number of SWUs these 5,904 centrifuges are assumed to be capable of producing per year:
6,000 r
Number of months needed for these 5,904 centrifuges operating at such a capacity to produce 840 SWUs:
1.7 s

Additional estimates: Low-enriched uranium production

Amount of UF6 produced through February 9, 2009:
357 metric tons t
Approximate number of first-generation implosion bombs that this amount of UF6 could fuel if enriched to weapon grade:
45-50 u
Additional information: Number of centrifuges deployed over time

Date of IAEA inventory Centrifuges being fed with UF6 Centrifuges installed or being installed
2/17/2007 0 656
5/13/2007 1,312 820
8/19/2007 1,968 656
11/3/2007 2,952 0
12/12/2007 2,952 ?
5/7/2008 3,280 2,624
8/30/2008 3,772 2,132
11/7/2008 3,772 2,132
2/1/2009 3,936 1,968

(a) The following estimates are based on information in quarterly reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is responsible for nuclear inspections in Iran.

(b) According to the IAEA, Iran had produced a total of 839 kg of low-enriched UF6 as of November 17, 2008. Since then, Iran has produced approximately 235 kg of this material for a total of 1,074 kg (see note j) ( Of that amount, 726 kg is uranium; 726 kg of uranium enriched to 3.5% contain 25.4 kg of U-235.

(c) Iran is estimated to produce about 2.28 kg of low-enriched UF6 each day (see note k), for an average monthly production rate of 69 kg month, 46 kg of which is uranium; enriched to 3.5%, this 46 kg contains 1.6 kg of U-235.

(d) Sixteen kilograms are assumed to be sufficient for an implosion bomb. This was the amount called for in the implosion device Saddam Hussein was trying to perfect in the 1980’s, and the design for such a device has circulated on the nuclear black market, to which Iran has had access. The critical mass of a sphere of U-235 metal is only 15 kg with a Beryllium reflector. See Gunter Hildenbrand, Nuclear energy, nuclear exports and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, AIF Conference on International Commerce and Safeguards for Civil Nuclear Power, March 1977. For a schematic diagram of an implosion bomb, see:

(e) Because of losses during the enrichment and weaponization processes, Iran would need about 914 kg (see note l) of UF6 enriched to 3.5% U-235, of which about 618 kg would be uranium, in order to achieve 16 kg of weapon-grade uranium. 618 kg of uranium enriched to 3.5% U-235 contains 21.6 kg of U-235. See the SWU calculator published by URENCO, a European uranium enrichment consortium:

(f) Assuming 19.9 kg of U-235 on hand as of November 17, 2008, a requirement of 21.6 kg for a first bomb, and a production rate of 1.6 kg of U-235 each month, Iran would have had enough in December 2008.

(g) Once enriched to weapon-grade, this material would still need to be converted from gas to metal and then machined into a form suitable for a bomb.

(h) The IAEA estimates the conversion time for low-enriched uranium to weapon-grade uranium metal to be approximately 3-12 months ( However, if it would take approximately 840 SWUs to produce 16 kg of U-235 from a stockpile of 3.5% enriched uranium (see note n), and if Iran is capable of producing 6,000 SWUs per year (see note r), then a conversion time at the lower end of this range is probable. Therefore, Iran could have weapon-grade UF6 within 2-3 months, even assuming a delay in processing.

(i) If Iran were to add by April 1, 2009 the 1,476 centrifuges it has installed and placed under vacuum, the monthly production rate of U-235 would increase by about 37% to 2.2 kg per month, and if by June 2009 Iran operates all 5,904 centrifuges that are currently either in use or being installed, and adds no additional centrifuges, the monthly production rate of U-235 would increase by about 9% to approximately 2.4 kg per month. These production rates would allow Iran to accumulate the requisite 21.6 kg for a second bomb by October 2009.

(j) According to the IAEA, Iran had an inventory of 839 kg of low-enriched UF6 as of November 17, 2008, based on production from the beginning of operations (; Iran has estimated that it produced 171 kg of this material from November 18, 2008 through January 31, 2009; and at an average daily production rate of 2.28 kg, Iran produced about 64 kg in February, for a total of 1,074 kg of low-enriched UF6 by March 1, 2009.

(k) Iran estimates that it produced 171 kg of low-enriched UF6 over 75 days, from November 18, 2008 to January 31, 2009, for; an average daily production rate of 2.28 kg.

(l) This is assuming uranium tails of 1% U-235, a feed assay of 3.5% U-235, a product assay of 93% U-235, a 5% loss of material during bomb manufacture, and that 16 kg of this product are needed for a bomb. See the SWU calculator published by URENCO, a European uranium enrichment consortium:

(m) The Separative Work Unit is the standard measure of the effort required to increase the concentration of the fissionable U-235 isotope. See

(n) Based on the assumptions set forth above (see footnote l), Iran would need approximately 840 SWUs to bring 914 kg of low-enriched UF6 to weapon grade. See the SWU calculator published by URENCO, a European uranium enrichment consortium:

(o) According to the IAEA, Iran is operating an 18 cascade unit (A24) of 2,952 machines and six cascades (984 machines) in a second unit (A26) at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (

(p) Iran has not been operating its IR-1 centrifuges at their estimated capacity. For instance, between December 2007 and November 2008, during which Iran was operating an average of 3,444 machines, 764 kg of low enriched UF6 were produced. Assuming a product assay of 3.5% U-235 and tails of .4% U-235, this represents about 1,880 SWU, or just over .5 SWU per machine.

(q) According to the IAEA, Iran is operating an 18 cascade unit (A24) of 2,952 machines and six cascades (984 machines) in a second unit (A26); a further nine cascades (1,476 machines) at unit A26 are installed and under vacuum and the three remaining cascades (492 machines) are being installed (

(r) Iran’s IR-1 centrifuge is widely estimated to have an annual enrichment capacity of about two SWUs. Iran, however, has been achieving a lower output (see note p). If Iran were to increase the efficiency of its centrifuges to one SWU per machine, two units operating at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant would produce about 6,000 SWUs per year.

(s) If 840 SWUs are needed to bring a bomb’s worth of Iran’s stockpiled low-enriched UF6 to weapon-grade, and if Iran’s centrifuges produce approximately 6,000 SWUs per year, it would probably take less than two months.

(t) According to the IAEA, 357 metric tons is the total amount of UF6 produced by Iran at its Uranium Conversion Facility from the beginning of operations in March 2004, to February 9, 2009 (

(u) natural uranium feed, a product assay of 93%, and tails of .4%, 357 metric tons of UF6 would yield approximately 800 kg of uranium enriched to 93% U-235; if 16 kg of 93% material are required to fuel one first-generation implosion device, then this 800 kg of uranium would be enough to fuel 45-50 such weapons.

A terrifying prospect
Posted By: Con Coughlin at Jan 24, 2007 at 17:18:20 [General]
Posted in:
Tags:Iran, Kim Jong Il, North Korea, nuclear, underground

My revelation that North Korea is helping Iran to prepare for an underground nuclear test is yet more evidence that Teheran's nuclear programme is anything but benign.

Kim Jong Il is helping the Iranians

The Iranians, of course, insist that they are only interested in developing nuclear power - this in a country which possesses the world's second largest oil reserves.

But suspicions about Iran's true intentions have been deepening ever since a group of Iranian exiles in 2003 revealed the existence of a top secret uranium facility at Natanz, whose very existence the Iranians had sought to conceal from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the body responsible for monitoring nuclear research and development worldwide.

If there was nothing untoward taking place at Natanz, then why did the Iranians try to conceal its existence.

There are many other clues that point to an altogether more sinister side to Iran's nuclear programme, from its links with A.Q. Khan, the "father" of Pakistan's nuclear bomb who sold Iran the Pakistani blueprint, to Iran's cooperation with North Korea on developing a ballistic missile system that will give it the capability to hit targets throughout the Middle East - including Israel, a country the current Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, says he wants to wipe off the face of the Middle East.

Last year I reported in the Daily Telegraph that Iran had successfully adapted the warhead of its Shahab-3 missile system to carry a nuclear warhead. Now it looks as though Iran will soon have a warhead to fit on the missile, a truly terrifying prospect.

Why else would a team of Iranian nuclear experts have travelled to Pyongyang to study the results of the controversial nuclear test the North Koreans carried out last October?

The logical conclusion to be drawn from the increased cooperation between North Korea and Iran is that the Iranians are determined to test a nuclear device as soon as the Natanz plant produces enough weapons grade uranium for a trial warhead.

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