Iran Shuts Out UN Nuclear Inspectors

VIENNA, Austria, March 1, 2005 (ENS) - The government of Iran has rejected a request by the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency to make a second visit to the Parchin military site, which has been linked in allegations to nuclear weapons testing, a senior agency official said today.

Iran allowed International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to visit the site in January in the interests of transparency following the allegations, but the visit was limited to only one of four areas identified as being of potential interest and to only five buildings in that area, said Pierre Goldschmidt, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Safeguards.

But when the IAEA requested to visit "another area of particular interest" before the end of February, Iran indicated that "the expectation of the Safeguards Department in visiting specified zone and points in Parchin Complex are fulfilled and thus there is no justification for any additional visit," he told the agency's Board of Governors in Vienna.

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Safeguards Head Dr. Pierre Goldschmidt (left) briefs the IAEA Board on recent Agency verification activities in Iran. Beside him is IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei. (Photo by D. Calma courtesy IAEA)
He noted that the agency was given free access to those buildings singled out in the earlier visit and to their surroundings and was permitted to take environmental samples.

"As a result of its limited scope visit to Parchin, the agency is able to inform the Board that it saw no relevant dual use equipment or materials in the location visited," Goldschmidt said, referring to materials that can be used either for producing energy or for making weapons.

"The agency is awaiting the results of environmental sampling analysis to ascertain whether any nuclear material had been used in the area visited," he said.

That Parchin incident is the latest twist in a chain of events that began two years ago when it became clear that Iran had for many years concealed its nuclear activities in breach of its legal obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Goldschmidt told the Board that since November 2004, inspections were carried out at Iranian nuclear facilities in Tehran, Natanz, Esfahan, and inspectors were granted complementary access at three locations.

Goldschmidt said the IAEA is expecting some progress in identifying the origin of low-enriched and high-enriched particle uranium particle contamination of old centrifuge components. A centrifuge can be used in producing enriched uranium which can be used in weapons production.

In January 2005, IAEA inspectors visited locations outside Iran where centrifuge components had been stored before their shipment to Iran. Environmental samples were collected from these locations and are being analyzed.

Iran has consistently denied it is seeking nuclear weapons, insisting its program is purely for energy generation.

Parchin

An overview of suspect portions of Iran's Parchin military site, located about 30 kilometers (20 miles) southeast of Tehran. (Photo courtesy ISIS)
Addressing the Board yesterday IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei called on Iran to provide "full transparency" on all its nuclear activities, noting that information on some outstanding issues was still pending, while progress has been made on others. He has previously stated that he is not in a position to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in the country.

In another development, Iran showed the agency on January 12 a handwritten document reflecting an offer said to have been made in 1987 by a foreign intermediary relating to centrifuge technology acquisition

The document suggests that the offer included, the delivery of a disassembled sample machine; drawings, specifications and calculations for a "complete plant," and materials for 2000 centrifuge machines, Goldschmidt said.

Iran stated that only some of the items had been delivered, and that all of them had been declared to the IAEA, but they have not been placed under IAEA safeguards seals. This information is still being assessed and the agency has requested that all documentation relevant to the offer be made available to it.

In his opening address to the Board Monday, ElBaradei said there are still 39 countries that are party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treat that have not yet fulfilled their obligation to bring into force comprehensive safeguards agreements with the IAEA, and more than 100 States that do not have additional protocols in force.

The nuclear activities of North Korea, which continue to be outside international verification, "remain a serious challenge to the nuclear non-proliferation regime," ElBaradei said. The agency ended its verification activities on December 31, 2002, at the request of North Korea, and has been unable to draw any conclusions regarding the country's nuclear activities since then, he said.

The recent declaration by North Korea that it possesses nuclear weapons "is a matter of the utmost concern and has serious security implications, and highlights yet again the importance and the urgency of finding a diplomatic solution through dialogue," ElBaradei said, offering to work with any party towards a solution that addresses the needs of all parties.

Nuclear Power Expansion Projected

More countries are planning to enlarge their nuclear power capacity now that the Kyoto Protocol has come into force, because the greenhouse gas emissions treaty has placed an economic value on generating power while emitting a low level of greenhouse gases.

"In the past, the virtual absence of restrictions or taxes on greenhouse gas emissions has meant that nuclear power's advantage - of low emissions - has had no tangible economic value," ElBaradei said. "The widespread, coordinated emission restrictions of the Kyoto Protocol will likely change that over the longer term."

"For nuclear power, the current picture is one of rising expectations," he said. Based on "the most conservative assumptions," ElBaradei said the IAEA predicts 427 gigawatts of global nuclear capacity in 2020, "the equivalent of 127 more 1000 megawatt nuclear plants than IAEA projections made in 2000."

China plans to raise its total installed nuclear electricity generating capacity from the current 6.5 gigawatts to between 32 and 40 gigawatts by 2020, he said.

India is proposing a 10-fold increase in its nuclear capacity by 2022.

power plant

Russia's Kola Nuclear Power Plant in the northern city of Murmansk (Photo courtesy Kola NPP)
The Russian Federation plans to raise its nuclear capacity from the current 22 gigawatts to 4045 gigawatts by 2020, said ElBaradei, adding that France and Finland have "more moderate plans to expand their nuclear capacity" in the coming years.

"New nuclear power plants still remain most attractive where energy demand growth is rapid, alternative resources are scarce, energy supply security is a priority or nuclear power is important for reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions," he explained.

In the field of ecosystem management, ElBaradei told the Board that nuclear techniques are being explored to diagnose and better manage farming practices, using isotopic tracers to evaluate the influence of water irrigation on fertilizer use and the efficient re-use of agricultural waste waters as a source of water and nutrients.

The junction where nuclear technology and nanotechnology meet is of interest to many scientists and engineers, he said. "The use of radiation based technologies such as X rays, electron beams and ion beams is emerging as an effective tool, for example in the precision treatment of controlled release drug delivery systems; or in synthesizing nanoparticles for use in photoelectric and solar cells."

Next month, in cooperation with the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, the IAEA will organize a conference in Paris, hosted by the French government, on the future of nuclear power. The conference will examine the expansion of world energy demands in relation to resources, consider the environmental challenges of the coming century, and focus on the driving factors for energy strategies and choices, contrasting nuclear power with other energy sources.

A majority of the States Parties to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material have requested that the treaty be extended to cover the physical protection of nuclear material used for peaceful purposes, in domestic use, storage and transport; and the physical protection of nuclear material and peaceful nuclear facilities against sabotage, the director general said. He has planned a diplomatic conference to be held in July to consider and adopt the proposed amendments.