News / Middle East

    US Calls Iran's Nuclear Reactor Plans 'Deeply Troubling'

    A view of Arak heavy-water project 190 km (120 miles) southwest of Tehran, undated file photo.
    A view of Arak heavy-water project 190 km (120 miles) southwest of Tehran, undated file photo.
    Reuters
    The United States said on Wednesday it was "deeply troubled" by Iran's plans to start a reactor in 2014 that could yield nuclear bomb material while failing to give U.N. inspectors necessary design information about the plant.
     
    The comments by a U.S. envoy to a board meeting of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) highlighted deepening Western concern about the heavy-water reactor that Iran is building near the town of Arak.
     
    Iran hit back, saying the IAEA had had continuous access to Arak and that the United States, which accuses Tehran of seeking nuclear weapons capability, could not be trusted after going to war in Iraq over reports of weapons of mass destruction that were never found.
     
    "We will not yield to pressure, sanctions, threats of attack," Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh told reporters, underlining Tehran's determination to press ahead with its nuclear program despite international demands to curb it.
     
    Tension over Iran's nuclear course is rising with talks between Tehran and six powers stalled.
     
    Israel, widely assumed to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed state, sees Iran as its greatest threat and has threatened to bomb its nuclear sites if diplomacy and sanctions fail to restrain Tehran.
     
    Iran says the Arak plant will make isotopes for medical and agricultural use. But analysts say this type of facility can also produce plutonium for weapons if the spent fuel is reprocessed — something Iran says it has no intention of doing.
     
    Tasked with ensuring that nuclear material is not diverted for military purposes, the IAEA says Iran must urgently give it design data about Arak to allow it to monitor the site properly.
     
    "We are deeply troubled that Iran claims that the IR-40 heavy-water reactor at Arak could be commissioned as soon as early 2014, but still refuses to provide the requisite design information," Joseph Macmanus, the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, told the 35-nation Board of Governors.
     
    He cited IAEA rules that a member state must inform the Vienna-based U.N. agency about a nuclear plant, and give design details, as soon as it has decided to build one. Iran says it must only do so 180 days before bringing atom fuel to the plant.
     
    "Iran's refusal to fulfill this basic obligation must necessarily cause one to ask whether Iran is again pursuing covert nuclear activities," Macmanus said.
     
    China, Russia Press Iran

    IAEA chief inspector Herman Nackaerts told the board that Iran last provided design information about Arak more than six years ago, when it was at an early stage of construction.
     
    It was "sketchy or incomplete and additional information is now required," he said, according to one diplomat.
     
    The West suspects Iran is seeking the capability to develop nuclear weapons behind the facade of an atomic energy program.
     
    Iran says its nuclear work is a bid to generate electricity and also to make progress in other areas of scientific research. It denies accusations it is seeking to develop atomic weapons.
     
    Western worries about Iran are focused largely on uranium enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordow, as such material refined to a high level can provide the fissile core of an atomic bomb.
     
    But diplomats and experts say Arak could offer Iran another route to nuclear bombs, if it decided to build them.
     
    Experts say Arak could produce enough plutonium for one bomb per year, if Iran decided to pursue such weapons of mass destruction. But it would first have to build a facility to chemically separate the material from the spent fuel.
     
    "We don't have any plan for reprocessing," Soltanieh said.
     
    Israel has twice before bombed suspected reactor construction sites in the Middle East — in Iraq in 1981 and in Syria in 2007 — underlining its determination not to allow regional foes to acquire the means to assemble nuclear weapons.
     
    To signal big power unity on Iran, China and Russia joined four Western powers in pressing Iran at the IAEA meeting to cooperate with a stalled investigation by the U.N. nuclear agency into suspected atomic weapons research by Tehran.
     
    In a joint statement, the six powers said they were "deeply concerned" about Iran's nuclear activities.

    You May Like

    Wife of IS Leader Charged in Death of US Hostage

    Suspect allegedly admitted to being responsible for American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who officials say was sexually abused and ‘owned’ by one IS member

    Year of the Monkey Could Prove Economic Balancing Act for China

    China is up against a tricky situation on the financial front, facing the need to fight capital flight while also stopping a further slide of foreign currency reserves

    Runners Attempt 26-mile South Pole Marathon in Sub-Zero Temperatures

    How alluring is running 26.2 miles at 10,000 feet when it’s minus 31 Celsius out?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.