Scientist (illustrative)
Scientist (illustrative) Morguefile: courtesy Mary B. Thorman

Russian scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko on Thursday denied that he had helped Iran develop its nuclear program. Danilenko had been pegged by the Washington Post on Wednesday as the likely “brains” behind the Iranian nuclear project.

According to sources familiar with the International Atomic Energy Agency report due out this week, a “foreign expert” had helped Iran develop a "high explosives detonation system.” The expert was not identified in the report, but the Post, citing intelligence reports, said that it was Danilenko. The veteran scientist, who is a top researcher on nanotechnology and had allegedly worked on the Soviet Union's nuclear development program as well, denied that he was the individual in question.

Top Russian newspaper Kommersant said that it had tracked down Danilenko, now 76, and had asked him about the report. In response, the scientist said that “I am not a nuclear physicist and am not the founder of the Iranian nuclear program.”

Danlienko is best known for his research on detonation nanodiamonds – diamonds that are created as the result of large explosions. Danelinko was suspected by the IAEA of using his extensive background in explosives to help Iran build an implosion-type nuclear device, in which high explosives compress highly enriched uranium or plutonium until it reaches critical mass, triggering a chain reaction, the British Guardian reported Thursday. “However, in interviews with the IAEA, Danilenko is said to have insisted that he had been under the impression his advice would be used for purely civilian applications of explosive technology, sources close to the agency said,” the Guardian report added.

The Kommersant report quoted Vladimir Padalko, who worked with Danilenko at Ukrainian nanodiamond company Alit from 1992 to 1996.  Padalko said that the IAEA had questioned him as well. “I told them that nanodiamonds have no relation whatsoever to nuclear weapons. They were interested in Danilenko's work in Iran," the paper quoted Padalko as saying, adding that Danilenko had worked in Iran for several years during the 1990s.