APL Colloquium

July 23, 2021

Colloquium Topic: Iran’s Perilous Pursuit of Nuclear Weapons

Iran’s Perilous Pursuit of Nuclear Weapons chronicles the Islamic Republic of Iran’s effort to acquire nuclear weapons. It started slowly, building to a crash nuclear weapons program in the early 2000s to create five nuclear weapons and an industrial complex to produce many more.  Under international pressure, fearful of military attack, the program was driven to downsize and deeper secrecy. Nonetheless, Iran remains on the brink of becoming a nuclear weapons power; its nuclear material production capabilities stronger than ever, its weaponization capabilities lurking under the surface.

But just how close did Iran get to nuclear weapons during its crash program and how close is it today? Up until the events of a cold, clear night in January 2018, the world could only guess.  In a dramatic nighttime raid, the Israeli Foreign Intelligence Service Mossad broke into a warehouse in Tehran and seized a large cache of documents detailing Iran’s darkest and long-denied secret. The Amad Plan, the codename for its crash nuclear weapons program, was far larger and made much more progress than previously known. Containing many top secret details, the seized documents offer unprecedented insights into Iran’s progress—and the hurdles it faced in building nuclear weapons. With what Iran learned about building nuclear weapons during the Amad Plan, combined with its subsequent accomplishments, the Islamic Republic has developed a sophisticated capability to make nuclear weapons.

It would not take Iran long to build nuclear weapons today. The challenge rests in stopping the Islamic Republic from building them and sparking a regional nuclear arms race.

Colloquium Speaker: David Albright

David Albright, a physicist, is founder and President of the non-profit Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, D.C. He has written numerous assessments on secret nuclear weapons programs throughout the world and the means proliferant states use to obtain the wherewithal for making nuclear weapons and defeating export controls.  During his career, Albright has testified numerous times on nuclear issues before the U.S. Congress and advised numerous governments. He has spoken to many groups, technical workshops and conferences, and trained many government officials in non-proliferation policy making.  The media have frequently cited Albright, and he has appeared often on television and radio.  Albright cooperated actively with the International Atomic Energy Agency Action Team from 1992 until 1997, focusing on analyses of Iraqi documents and past procurement activities. In June 1996, he was the first non-governmental inspector of the Iraqi nuclear program.  Albright has authored or co-authored nine books, including Revisiting South Africa’s Nuclear Weapons Program, Illicit Trade Networks - Connecting the Dots, Peddling Peril: How the Secret Nuclear Trade Arms America’s Enemies, and Taiwan’s Former Nuclear Weapons Program: Nuclear Weapons On-Demand.  In May 2021, he published a book on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Iran’s Perilous Pursuit of Nuclear Weapons.