IAEA: Iran Expands Nuclear Capacity, Delays Sensitive Reactor

    An August 26, 2006 view of the Arak heavy-water project, southwest of Tehran, Iran.
    An August 26, 2006 view of the Arak heavy-water project, southwest of Tehran, Iran.
    Reuters
    Iran plans to test about 1,000 advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges it has completed installing, a U.N. nuclear report showed, a move likely to worry Western capitals hoping for a change of course under the country's new president.
     
    The U.N. atomic agency's quarterly report - the first since relative moderate Hassan Rouhani won Iran's June presidential election - also revealed developments that could help buy time for diplomacy between Tehran and major powers, however.
     
    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran informed it a few days ago that the planned commissioning of the Arak research reactor - which could yield potential bomb material - had been delayed from early next year.
     
    “This is a positive development since the reactor would produce plutonium that, if separated, could be used in nuclear weapons,” a U.S. think-tank, the Institute for Science and International Security [ISIS], said in a comment on the report.
     
    Further, Iran's most sensitive nuclear stockpile has hardly grown - remaining below its arch-enemy Israel's stated “red line” that could provoke military action - since the previous IAEA report in May.
     
    Growth in Iran's reserve of uranium gas refined to 20 percent was held back as Iran stepped up conversion of the material into oxide to make fuel for a medical research reactor in Tehran. The stockpile of 186 kg compares with the 240-250 kg which experts say would be needed for a bomb if refined further.
     
    “It is unlikely, at this point, that Iran could dash toward further enrichment to weapons-grade without the IAEA detecting Tehran's activities,” said the Arms Control Association, a Washington-based advocacy and research group.
     
    Iran says its nuclear energy program is for electricity generation and medical uses only. It has rejected Western accusations that it is trying to develop the capability to produce nuclear bombs, despite having hidden sensitive activities from U.N. non-proliferation inspectors in the past.
     
    Israel has threatened to attack Iran if diplomatic pressure fails to rein in its program and it amasses enough 20 percent enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.
     
    The IAEA's findings still showed Iran pressing ahead with its nuclear program at a time when the outside world is waiting to see if Rouhani will increase transparency and reduce confrontation in its foreign relations, as he has pledged.
     
    The top Democrat on the foreign affairs committee of the U.S. House of Representation, Eliot Engel, renewed a call for tighter sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program after the report was released.

    Reactor delay
     
    Envoys accredited to the IAEA had cautioned against reading too much into the latest inspectors' report as it mainly covered developments before Rouhani took office in early August, succeeding the conservative hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
     
    Separately the IAEA announced a resumption on September 27 of talks with Iran over how to get it to cooperate with an agency inquiry into “possible military dimensions” to its nuclear work. There have been 10 fruitless rounds of talks since early 2012, but the next session will be the first with Rouhani in office.
     
    Obtained by Reuters on Wednesday, the IAEA report said Iran had fully installed a total of 1,008 new-generation centrifuges at the underground Natanz complex and was planning to test their performance, without giving a timetable. Iran started installing the new centrifuges in February, stoking Western concern.
     
    The machines were “under vacuum”, the report said, a key step towards starting them up.
     
    Iran's progress in introducing advanced centrifuges is under close scrutiny in the West and Israel - which is assumed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal - because this would enable Tehran to speed up its accumulation of material that could be put to producing atomic bombs.
     
    Centrifuges spin at supersonic speed to produce enriched uranium, which Iran says it needs to fuel a planned network of nuclear power plants. But if further refined, uranium can also provide the explosive core of a nuclear bomb.
     
    The report said Iran had begun making nuclear fuel for its planned Arak heavy-water research reactor but had put off its commissioning beyond the planned first quarter of 2014.
     
    It was not unexpected as “many people couldn't believe the schedule. But it was the first time that Iran acknowledged this,” an international official familiar with the issue said.
     
    Western leaders are concerned the Arak complex could offer Iran a second path to weapons-grade fissile material by churning out plutonium. Iran denies any such intention.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora