The IAEA claim that a foreign scientist - identified in news reports as Vyacheslav Danilenko - had been involved in building the alleged containment chamber has now been denied firmly by Danilenko himself in an interview with Radio Free Europe published Friday.
The latest report by the IAEA cited "information provided by Member States" that Iran had constructed "a large explosives containment vessel in which to conduct hydrodynamic experiments" - meaning simulated explosions of nuclear weapons - in its Parchin military complex in 2000.
The report said it had "confirmed" that a "large cylindrical object" housed at the same complex had been "designed to contain the detonation of up to 70 kilograms of high explosives". That amount of explosives, it said, would be "appropriate" for testing a detonation system to trigger a nuclear weapon.
But former IAEA inspector Robert Kelley has denounced the agency's claims about such a containment chamber as "highly misleading".
Kelley, a nuclear engineer who was the IAEA's chief weapons inspector in Iraq and is now a senior research fellow at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, pointed out in an interview with the Real News Network that a cylindrical chamber designed to contain 70 kg of explosives, as claimed by the IAEA, could not possibly have been used for hydrodynamic testing of a nuclear weapon design, contrary to the IAEA claim.
"There are far more explosives in that bomb than could be contained by this container," Kelley said, referring to the simulated explosion of a nuclear weapon in a hydrodynamic experiment.
Kelley also observed that hydrodynamic testing would not have been done in a container inside a building in any case. "You have to be crazy to do hydrodynamic explosives in a container," he said. "There's no reason to do it. They're done outdoors on firing tables."
Kelley rejected the IAEA claim that the alleged cylindrical chamber was new evidence of an Iranian weapons programme. "We've been led by the nose to believe that this container is important, when in fact it's not important at all," Kelley said.
The IAEA report and unnamed "diplomats" implied that a "former Soviet nuclear weapons scientist", identified in the media as Danilenko, had helped build the alleged containment vessel at Parchin.
But their claims conflict with one another as well as with readily documented facts about Danilenko's work in Iran.
The IAEA report does not deny that Danilenko – a Ukrainian who worked in a Soviet-era research institute that was identified mainly with nuclear weapons – was actually a specialist on nanodiamonds. The report nevertheless implies a link beween Danilenko and the purported explosives chamber at Parchin by citing a publication by Danilenko as a source for the dimensions of the alleged explosives chamber.
Associated Press reported Nov. 11 that unnamed diplomats suggested Volodymyr Padalko, a partner of Danilenko in a nanodiamond business who was described as Danilenko's son-in-law, had contradicted Danilenko's firm denial of involvement in building a containment vessel for weapons testing. The diplomats claimed Padalko had told IAEA investigators that Danilenko had helped build "a large steel chamber to contain the force of the blast set off by such explosives testing".
But that claim appears to be an effort to confuse Danilenko's well- established work on an explosives chamber for nanodiamond synthesis with a chamber for weapons testing, such as the IAEA now claims was built at Parchin.