A report by the highly-regarded think tank Foundation for the Defense of Democracies concludes that Iran was planning to build five ballistic-deliverable, 10-kiloton nuclear warheads by 2003. This new information emerges from a slide in the Iranian “nuclear archive” from Iranian presentation made in the late 1990s or early 2000.
According to the FDD’s summary of its longer report, the Iranian document “discusses a schedule and marginal cost for creating the infrastructure to develop and build these five nuclear weapons over about three or four years, or by about 2003.”
The plan was approved at the highest level of the Iranian leadership. It specifies a timetable and flowchart for executing thirteen tasks necessary to prepare for a nuclear test in 2002-03, although these tasks do not include the necessary acquisition of highly enriched uranium.
A summary report of the discovery evaluates the significance of the new information:
These initial Iranian plans show that Iran was achieving much more than feasibility and scientific studies, as the IAEA assessed in late 2015. It is significant that by the late 1990s, Iran had made the decision to put in place the infrastructure and knowledge to manufacture within a relatively short period of time five nuclear weapons. … [Iran’s] on-going refusal to admit to having a nuclear weapons program or allow the IAEA to carry out its mandate to verify compliance with the NPT and its comprehensive safeguards agreement and Additional Protocol must be viewed as an affront and challenge to the entire structure of nuclear non-proliferation agreements and norms.
The report assesses that the five nuclear weapons would have intended at first as a deterrent due to their low yield and small number. They would, however, have been only an initial goal of the program.