by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) Feb 09, 2014
UN nuclear experts tackle Iran on arms allegations
Tehran (AFP) Feb 08, 2014 – Iran said talks Saturday with the UN atomic watchdog over allegations of Tehran’s past weapons work and additional safeguards were constructive and have been extended for another day.The five-hour-long meeting came as the Islamic republic’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, demanded tolerance from critics of President Hassan Rouhani ahead of fresh talks with world powers.Negotiations between Iran and the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are building on a framework deal agreed in November that requires Tehran to take six practical steps by Tuesday.Chief inspector Tero Varjoranta and four experts are assessing the implementation of those measures, Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said.
The official IRNA news agency quoted Kamalvandi as saying that the talks were “good, constructive and are progressing”.
He said both side had agreed to continue the talks on Sunday, which are expected to include long-standing allegations of “possible military dimensions” to Iran’s past nuclear activities.
IAEA director general Yukiya Amano told AFP last month that time was now ripe to ask the “more difficult” questions.
How long this takes “very much depends on Iran. It can be quick or it can be long. It really depends on their cooperation,” Amano said.
Another issue to be discussed is access to the Parchin military facility, suspected of having been used for research pertaining to weapons development prior to 2003, and possibly since, according to the IAEA.
The November deal, struck after two years of on-off talks, was separate from a landmark agreement reached with world powers the same month that has placed temporary curbs on Iran’s nuclear activities.
Implementation of the IAEA deal began in December, when inspectors visited Arak, where the small unfinished heavy water reactor has been hit by delays.
The site is of international concern because Iran could theoretically extract weapons-grade plutonium from spent fuel if it also builds a reprocessing facility.
Iran says it will continue work there but its atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi said this week the reactor could be modified to produce less plutonium to “allay the worries.”
The second step was to visit the Gachin uranium mine, which took place in late January.
Also required were information on future research reactors, identifying sites of new nuclear power plants, and clarification on Iranian statements regarding additional enrichment facilities and laser enrichment technology.
All six measures have been implemented.
Iran agreed Sunday to clarify to the UN atomic agency its need for detonators used in nuclear devices, as part of a probe into allegations of its past weapons work.
The move is part of seven new steps agreed between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency to increase transparency over Tehran’s controversial nuclear drive.
And it appears to be the first time in years Iran has agreed to tackle IAEA suspicions that its nuclear work prior to 2003 had “possible military dimensions”.
The development comes with Iran set to resume nuclear talks with world powers later this month, after an initial accord in November imposed curbs on its uranium enrichment to allay concerns that it seeks to acquire atomic weapons.
Capping two-days of talks in Tehran with Iranian officials, the IAEA said Iran agreed to provide “information and explanations for the agency to assess Iran’s stated need or application for the development of Exploding Bridge Wire (EBW) detonators”.
According to the IAEA, Iran told the agency in 2008 that it had developed EBWs for “civilian and conventional military applications” but has yet to explain its “need or application for such detonators”.
Such fast, high-precision detonators could be used in some civilian applications but are mostly known for triggering a nuclear chain reaction. The IAEA believes they form “an integral part of a programme to develop an implosion type nuclear device.”
Mark Hibbs, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the detonators are “fine wires… designed to perform with exceeding precision and reliability. Without that dependability, the detonations would fail.”
Citing an unnamed Iranian nuclear official, the ISNA news agency said Tehran would “provide information beyond what it had already provided to the agency” on the EBWs.
It did not elaborate.
Earlier, Iran’s envoy to the Vienna-based IAEA, Reza Najafi, said “seven more practical steps” had been agreed between the two sides in a deal that would be implemented by May 15.
Six other steps were agreed under a framework deal struck on November 11.
In the latest agreement, the IAEA will also have “managed access” to the Saghand uranium mine and the Ardakan yellowcake facility where an impure form of uranium oxide is prepared to be fed into centrifuges for enrichment.
Officially unveiled in April 2013, the plant in Ardakan receives raw material from Saghand, some 120 kilometres (75 miles) away. It can reportedly produce up to 60 tonnes of yellowcake annually.
Arak reactor in spotlight
Iran also agreed to submit updated design information and finalise a safeguards mechanism for the so-called heavy water reactor under construction in Arak.