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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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 Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More