Russian scientist denies being ‘father’ of Iran’s nuclear weapons program

Yossi Melman – Haaretz November 10, 2011

Russian scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko denied Thursday a Washington Post report, according to which he was both a nuclear expert and the founder of the Iranian nuclear program. He was exposed in the report as having worked in Iran for five years in the 1990s in the weaponization group which oversees the final stage in the assembly of a nuclear bomb.

The Washington Post report was based on a lecture by American expert David Albright, a former inspector in the International Atomic Energy Agency, who claimed Danilenko oversaw Iranian efforts linked to the bombs’ trigger mechanism, as well as tests relating to the force of the enriched uranium’s nuclear fission.

Danilenko, who is now 76 years old, spoke with the Russian daily Kommersant, denying all of the allegations against him.

The Russian scientist is considered to be a specialist in the use of explosives in tiny diamonds for industrial purposes. However, Kommersant reported he had been employed in one of Russia’s secret nuclear weapons facilities,Chelyabinsk 70, from the early 1950s until his retirement following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Later, he worked several years for the Ukrainian firm Alit, which produces what are called nanodiamonds. Kommersant quoted the company’s chief Vladimir Padalko as saying that IAEA experts as well as U.S. State Department officials met with Danilenko several times in recent years.

Speaking to Haaretz, sources at the UN’s atomic watchdog said that the Russian scientist was not explicitly mentioned in the agency’s report published earlier this week, but that one appendix to the paper stated that the information amassed in the report was also garnered following questionings of foreign experts who worked in, or were involved with, the Iranian nuclear program.

Many experts, especially those identified with the liberal left in Europe and those who support Iran’s efforts and oppose a military strike against it, said that the fact that the report utilized the testimony of a nanodiamonds expert proved that the IAEA paper was slanted, inaccurate, and was politically motivated to frame Iran and set the stage for an attack.

While Danilenko has been employed in recent years as a consultant to a Czech firm dealing in nanodiamonds, IAEA sources confirmed to Haaretz that they had in fact questioned the Russian scientist over his actions in Iran.

The sources indicated that, while Danilenko claimed during his questionings that he had worked for civilian projects in Iran, he proved quite proficient in explicitly nuclear weapons subjects, leading them to believe that he had contributed greatly to the Iranian nuclear program.

It should be stressed that Iran reportedly formed a string of companies, institutions, and groups that masqueraded as dealing with wholly civilian issues in order to hide the fact that they in fact served as a front for an Iranian nuclear program run by Tehran’s Defense Ministry and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

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