Nuclear Worries Proliferate Over North Korea, Iran

VIENNA, Austria, September 19, 2003 (ENS) - On the final day of its annual meeting, the International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference today adopted a resolution calling for North Korea to promptly accept the UN nuclear agency's comprehensive safeguards and cooperate in their full and effective implementation. The resolution was adopted by acclamation.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors were forced to pull out of North Korea in December 2002 and remain unable to verify North Koreaís nuclear program.

In the resolution, countries urged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to completely dismantle any nuclear weapons program in a prompt, transparent, verifiable and irreversible manner, maintaining the essential verification role of the agency.

They stressed the desire for a peaceful resolution through dialogue to the DPRK nuclear issue that would lead to a Korean Peninsula that is free of nuclear weapons and contributes positively to regional and global peace and security.


Yukio Takasu of Japan was elected president of the IAEA General Conference. (Photo courtesy IAEA)
In another resolution adopted today, the IAEA Member States commended progress on IAEA measures to help countries upgrade nuclear and radiological security and prevent potential acts of nuclear terrorism.

The resolution calls upon all Member States to continue to provide support to upgrade nuclear and radiological security, and welcomes IAEA activities to strengthen physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities, to respond to illicit trafficking, and to prevent nuclear and radiological terrorism.

It invites all Member States to participate in the IAEA's Illicit Trafficking Database covering reported cases involving nuclear and radiological materials.

Another resolution adopted today calls upon nations to take measures toward establishing a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East.

The resolution affirmed the urgent need for all states in the Middle East to accept the application of "full-scope IAEA safeguards" to all their nuclear activities "as an important confidence building measure."

In a statement on Iraq by General Conference President Yukio Takasu of Japan, the conference expressed appreciation for IAEA verification activities on safeguarded material in Iraq. The statement noted with satisfaction that there is no proliferation risk from the type and quantity of uranium compounds at the Baghdad Yellowcake Facility, and expressed appreciation for the IAEA's continuing safeguards activities under Iraq's NPT safeguards agreement.

The report on Iraq to the General Conference noted that, in the four months during which the IAEA was able to resume its Security Council mandated inspections in Iraq, the agency made significant progress in assessing the status of the countryís nuclear related capabilities. But the agency did not have sufficient time to resolve completely the key questions of whether Iraqís nuclear activities and capabilities had changed since December 1998.

Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei is director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations agency responsible for nuclear safeguards. (Photo courtesy IAEA)
The IAEA Board this year has given considerable attention to the implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty safeguards agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran, said IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei. Last week the Board adopted a resolution urging Iran to show proactive and accelerated co-operation, and to demonstrate full transparency by providing the agency with a complete and accurate declaration of all its nuclear activities.

It is essential and urgent that all outstanding issues particularly those involving high enriched uranium - be brought to closure as soon as possible, to enable the agency to provide the required assurances. "As I have often stated," said ElBaradi, "the more transparency that is provided, the more assurance we can give. This is in the interests of both Iran and the international community. I look forward, therefore, to a period of enhanced co-operation with Iran."

Russia is assisting Iran to complete its first nuclear power station at Bushehr, and the Russian delegation expressed satisfaction with the results of the IAEA meeting, particularly the resolution on Iran.

An official in the Russian Ministry of Nuclear Energy told Itar-Tass today that, "The adopted resolution's style, well-wishing and deferential with regard to Iran made for the fact that the delegation of Iran did not leave Vienna."

Instead, the official said, the Iranian delegation "stated Tehran's intention to carry on the talks with the IAEA on an additional safeguards protocol to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the country's preparedness to sign it."

But in Moscow today, Alexander Vershbow, U.S. Ambassador to Russia, said "Iranís policy of deception and delay belies its claims of developing nuclear technology for purely peaceful purposes."


Alexander Vershbow is U.S. Ambassador to Russia (Photo courtesy U.S. Embassy in Moscow)
Speaking at the Second Moscow International Non-proliferation Conference, Vershbow expressed the hope that "Russia will freeze construction at the Bushehr nuclear power plant and refuse to deliver fuel for it until Iran agrees to sign the Additional Protocol and cooperates fully with the IAEA in implementing it."

Vershbow explained that the United States has doubts about Iran's intentions because, in one instance, "Iran allowed IAEA inspectors to take samples from a site only after denying them access for months Ė sufficient time to clean up the facility in question."

"Another example involves Iranís changing explanations of its enrichment efforts," Vershbow said. "Although Iran initially said its enrichment program was entirely indigenous, it changed its story when IAEA inspectors found traces of highly enriched uranium in a centrifuge. At that point Iran claimed that it had purchased the equipment abroad and asserted that it had been contaminated by its original owner."

"Nothing about Iranís behavior is consistent with what one would expect from a state that is fully honoring its NPT obligations," Vershbow said, warning that there is a growing risk that the international confidence that has underpinned the Nuclear Non-ProliferationTreaty could be lost. "Unless this is corrected, he said, "there is a risk it could lead to regional nuclear arms races and destroy the basis for the peaceful sharing of nuclear technology."

The contribution of nuclear power to world electricity production has been stable, remaining at about 16 percent for the past few years, Dr. ElBaradei told IAEA member states in Vienna. The world electricity market has been growing continuously during this period - at an average of 2.8 percent per year - and the growth in nuclear electricity generation has kept pace, he said.

Six new reactors were added to the grid in 2002, offsetting the retirement of four reactors during the year, the director general reported. There are now 33 reactors under construction, 20 of which are in the Far East or South Asia,.

In other regions, the more immediate focus is on power upgrades, restarts of previously shutdown reactors, and licence extensions. Sixteen reactors in the United States of America have had their operating licences extended to 60 years, with many more applications under review. The Russian Federation and a number of other countries are also beginning programs of licence extension.