News / Middle East

UN Inspectors Set to Visit Iranian Plant

FILE - A general view of the Arak heavy-water project, 190 kilometers (120 miles) southwest of Tehran.
FILE - A general view of the Arak heavy-water project, 190 kilometers (120 miles) southwest of Tehran.
Reuters
U.N. inspectors are scheduled to visit an Iranian plant on Sunday linked to a planned heavy-water reactor that could yield nuclear bomb fuel, taking up an initial gesture by Iran to open its disputed nuclear program up to greater scrutiny.

The increased transparency is one of the various spin-offs from a dramatic diplomatic rapprochement over the past month, highlighted by a deal Iran struck with six world powers to curb its nuclear program in return for some easing of sanctions.

It will be the first time in more than two years that the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] is allowed to go to the Arak heavy-water production plant, which is designed to supply a research reactor under construction nearby.

The improved access will enable the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog to better “understand” the activities there, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said last week when he announced that Iran had invited his experts to come on Dec. 8.

Iran's atomic energy organization said this underlined the country's “goodwill to remove ambiguities about the peaceful nature of its nuclear energy program”, Press TV, Iran's English-language state television, reported on Wednesday.

But Western diplomats and nuclear experts stress that Iran must do much more in order to fully address suspicions that it has been trying to develop the capability to assemble nuclear weapons, a charge the Islamic Republic denies.

Iran's heavy water-related work is of great concern for the West: plutonium, a nuclear bomb ingredient, can be extracted from the spent fuel of a reactor that is powered by natural uranium and uses heavy water as a coolant and moderator.

Iran, which says the reactor will make medical isotopes, promised last month to stop installation work there for six months as part of its breakthrough pact with global powers.

Tehran also pledged in the Nov. 24 Geneva interim accord to halt its most sensitive uranium enrichment, activity which it says is for peaceful energy only, but which also could be applied to creating the fissile core of atomic bombs.

Iran has moved quickly since Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, became president in August on a pledge to allay international concern about its nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions battering its oil-dependent economy.

After years of sharpening confrontation that raised fears of a new Middle East war, Rouhani's election created a rare diplomatic opportunity to smooth Iran's troubled relations with Western states and end its isolation.

In the course of a few weeks of intensive diplomacy, Iran struck two separate, but still closely linked nuclear accords: one on Nov. 11 with the IAEA on more transparency, and a broader diplomatic pact with the United States, France, Germany, China, Russia and Britain in Geneva 13 days later.

Both are seen as important first steps towards ending a decade-old standoff over Tehran's atomic activities. But diplomats say many difficult hurdles remain to be overcome to reach a final settlement of the dispute, including differences over the scope and capacity of Iran's nuclear program.

Parchin access?

The IAEA regularly goes to Iran's uranium enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordow and other nuclear sites, but it wants wider inspection powers to make sure there are no hidden atomic activities and no diversion of atomic material.

The Arak visit is the first of six concrete steps that Iran agreed to implement under its cooperation pact with the IAEA, which is investigating allegations that Iran has been studying how to make nuclear bombs. Iran denies any nuclear weapons aim.

The other measures Iran committed to take within three months include allowing the IAEA to see a uranium mine, Gchine, as well as furnishing information about more enrichment plants and reactors that it has previously said it plans to build.

The IAEA needs such access and data to gain a more complete picture of the Iranian nuclear program, experts say.

Western diplomats have described the six steps as relatively easy for Iran to carry out - “low-hanging fruit” in the words of one envoy - and they say future action sought by the IAEA would probably be more difficult.

For example, the IAEA has made it clear it still wants to visit the Parchin military base southeast of Tehran where the U.N. agency believes nuclear weapons-relevant explosives tests were conducted, possibly a decade ago.

Last month's IAEA-Iran deal signaled a change in tactics after almost two years of fruitless negotiations focused on Parchin and other sensitive issues as part of the U.N. agency's investigation into suspected atomic bomb research by Tehran.

“This new approach starts with less controversial transparency issues but in subsequent phases... it will address the main IAEA concerns over the possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program,” the Institute for Science and International Security [ISIS], a U.S. think-tank, said.

The six initial measures “remain far from being enough to satisfy” U.N. inspectors' concerns, it added in an analysis.

The existence of the Arak heavy-water plant, which has the capacity to produce 16 tons per year, was first revealed by an exiled Iranian dissident group 11 years ago.

Since its last visit in August 2011, the IAEA has been monitoring the site southwest of Tehran via satellite imagery. It said in August the plant appeared to still be in operation.

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Sunny Enwerem from: Nigeria
December 05, 2013 1:15 PM
The same inspectors that were kicked out?????without a military option on d table dealing with Iran is a waste of diplomacy and time.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid