Flashback — When Belgium Exported Nuke Tech to Iran

“Having not correctly informed the competent authorities or its superior ministry, the [Belgian] state security service assuredly failed in its mission to provide information to the authorities and proved itself inefficient. (…) The service has not told the entire truth in the affair.”

Belgian Report — Investigation of the illegal export of dual-use technology to Iran

“Around mid-July 2004, the CIA informed the Belgian state security service that Iran Aircraft Industries was trying to buy an isostatic press in Belgium.”

Intel Today

May 1 2018 — On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed thousands of “secret Iranian nuclear files”. I will not comment on Bibi’s latest show. Clearly, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) knew these documents since 2005 and made public some of them in 2011. But one slide caught my attention and reminded me of an old — but still  disturbing — story. PS: Brownie points for the CIA on this one. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today

RELATED POST: One Year Ago — Dr A. Q. Khan: The Bomb, the Swiss and the CIA

RELATED STORY: The VELA Incident: Declassified Files Shed Light on the Nuclear Test Controversy

RELATED POST: Libyan Nuke Program Was CIA-MI6 Sting Op

The use of MPI (Multiple Points Initiator) is theoretically complex and requires high technology. The picture above — a slide about MPI Technology research conducted by Iranian scientists — can be seen at the 14’31 mark in Netanyahu’s presentation.

In order to produce a nearly perfectly isotropic compression of the nuclear core, the surrounding explosive charges must be designed very carefully.

During the  Manhattan Project, the Los Alamos physicists were not sure it could actually be done until Russian-born scientist George Kistiakowsky developed the explosive lenses necessary for an implosion-type nuclear weapon.

The manufacture of this device usually require some high-tech equipment know as a “Hot Isostatic Press”. So, the question is: Which country provided Iran with such equipment?

Flashback

In the European Union, the council regulation (EC) No. 1334/2000 of June 22, 2000 set up a community regime for the control of exports of dual-use items and technology.

These regulations are community legal instruments available to European institutions to carry out their tasks under the treaty establishing the European Community. Regulations are binding in their entirety and directly applicable to all member states.

Under code 2B004, the “Hot Isostatic Press”(1) is listed in Annex I of regulation (EC) No. 1334/2000.

According to Article 3, all items listed in this Annex require an authorization for exportation. Such authorization is granted by the competent authority of the member state.

A great deal of information (2) about the Iranian nuclear program was released in August 2002 and February 2003 by the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

The information they provided has been verified by the inspectors of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).

The Iranians were suspected of hiding a military program.(3) Tehran denied plans to build an atomic bomb, but Washington and the EU3 (France, the United Kingdom, and Germany) were suspicious.

Thus, an international embargo was established to ban all nuclear technology transfers to Iran.

During the 2003 Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) information exchange meeting, the French government’s representative reported that Iranian companies had attempted to purchase isostatic presses.

He therefore strongly advised NSG participating governments “to exercise the most serious vigilance on their exports to Iran and Iranian front companies.”

Around mid-July 2004, the CIA informed the Belgian state security service that Iran Aircraft Industries was trying to buy an isostatic press in Belgium.

CANPAN — the Belgian Advisory Committee for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Arms — gave a negative advisory, writing in its report for September 28 2004 that:

“There is an unacceptable risk that the machine will be used for activities related to nuclear arms or nuclear explosions.”

On September 28 2004, CANPAN warned the customs administration that a Belgian company might attempt to evade the export law.

On October 28 2004, the CIA named a Belgian firm and informed the Belgian authorities that the export of an isostatic press to Iran would occur on the same day.

Anne-Marie Lizin, Speaker of the Belgian Senate, has confirmed that:

“The Americans have asked the Belgian government with insistence not to contribute, not even inadvertently, to the Iranian missile program.”

The Belgian government alerted only the five customs offices through which the company is known to export its products. The company itself was not investigated.

In a report published on April 29, 2005, the Belgian daily Le Soir revealed the existence of a fax sent from the Belgian Finance Ministry to all customs services.

According to the newspaper, “an investigation has revealed that some of the Belgian companies, on behalf of the European Community, have tried to export ‘dual use’ equipment without an official license.”

At a Westminster news conference on Jan. 20, 2006, Dowlat Nowrouzi (4), U.K. representative of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, said:

“A vast illegal nuclear weapons program is being conducted in a top secret site well away from the eyes of international inspectors.”

She also confirmed that Tehran had successfully procured a hot isostatic press to shape enriched uranium as part of nuclear weapons production at the “Materials and Energy Research Center.”(5)

A Belgian company, EPSI (Engineered Pressure Systems International), exported the hot isostatic press to Iran on November 3, 2004.

The press transited through a non-alerted customs office. A general alert to all customs offices was given on December 22 2004– i.e., three months after the initial tip from the CIA and more than two years after the NSG warning.

Nowrouzi said that:

“The producing countries declined to sell the machines to the Iranian regime and, for this reason, the mullahs’ agents procured the machines indirectly through front companies and transferred them to Iran.”

According to the National Council of Resistance of Iran,

“Tehran had attempted to obtain the machines from Western countries under the cover of scientific research at Tehran University, Malek Ashtar University, affiliated to the Ministry of Defense, and Imam Hussein University, affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.”

Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx, the minister supervising the Belgian state security service, claimed that the Belgian security agency had never informed her of the American objections to the delivery of the isostatic press to Iran.

The chief of Belgium’s state security services, Koen Dassen, has resigned. His agency is accused of failing to pass CIA warnings to Brussels.

“Having not correctly informed the competent authorities or its superior ministry, the state security service assuredly failed in its mission to provide information to the authorities and proved itself inefficient,” the report says, adding that the service “had not told the entire truth in the affair.”

EPSI insisted that the type of technology it exported to Iran in November 2004 could not be used in nuclear weapons production.

EPSI admitted to exporting the device but said it was too small to handle missile-manufacturing applications.

The inside chamber dimension of the press is that of the chamber in which both the working temperature and pressure are achieved.

The council regulation (EC) No 1334/2000 applies to isostatic presses having a chamber cavity with an inside diameter of 406mm or more.

REFERENCES

1) The council regulation (EC) No 394/2006 of Feb. 27 2006 amends and updates regulation (EC) No 1334/2000. This regulation defines an isostatic press as equipment capable of pressurizing a closed cavity through various media (gas, liquid, solid particles, etc.) to create equal pressure in all directions within the cavity upon a workpiece or material. An isostatic press is used to forge pieces of metallic uranium or plutonium.

2) The Iranian authorities have admitted exploring the uranium deposit of Saghand. They have produced yellow cake near the city of Yazd. They have completed tetra and uranium hexafluoride production plants at Isfahan. They are building an important facility devoted to uranium enrichment by centrifugation at Deh Zireh located about 250km South of Tehran between the cities of Kashan and Natanz as well as a fuel production plant. They have completed a heavy water production plant at Khondab in the surroundings of Arak about 200km South East of Tehran.

3) They are suspected of developing two routes to produce fissionable materials: the uranium way and the plutonium path. Iran has manufactured a number of gas centrifuges to equip a complete uranium enrichment plant. Actually, 1,000 centrifuges are now available to be readily installed at the Deh Zierh site under construction. These centrifuges can produce highly enriched weapon-grade uranium. Near the site of Arak, a very large heavy water facility is near completion. Heavy water is a neutron moderator and an essential component for a weapon-grade plutonium production plant that uses natural uranium fuel.

4) “Iran: Mullahs obtained 2 banned machines used for making atom bomb,”
http://www.ncr-iran.org/content/view/913/76/

5) According to the NRCI, the “Materials and Energy Research Center” site, located on the edge of Meshkin-Dasht near Karaj, forty kilometers west of the Iranian capital, is operating under the cover of a scientific and industrial research center affiliated to the Ministry of Science and is run under the direction of Dr. Fatollah Moztarzadeh.

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Flashback — When Belgium Exported Nuke Tech to Iran

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