Iran Nuclear Substance Could Face New U.N. Scrutiny

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Global Security Newswire Staff
Feb. 4, 2014, 7:11 a.m.

Ir­an could face new in­ter­na­tion­al scru­tiny over pre­vi­ous activ­it­ies tied to a po­ten­tial in­gredi­ent for ini­ti­at­ing nuc­le­ar det­on­a­tions, Re­u­ters re­ports.

The In­ter­na­tion­al Atom­ic En­ergy Agency might dis­cuss Ir­an’s past work with po­loni­um 210 at a Sat­urday meet­ing with Ir­a­ni­an del­eg­ates, the news agency re­por­ted on Monday, cit­ing re­cent com­ments by IAEA Dir­ect­or Gen­er­al Yukiya Amano. The U.N. or­gan­iz­a­tion is seek­ing to shed light on Ir­an’s atom­ic am­bi­tions by in­vest­ig­at­ing al­leg­a­tions that the Middle East­ern na­tion may once have con­duc­ted ex­per­i­ments rel­ev­ant to nuc­le­ar-bomb de­vel­op­ment. Tehran in­sists its atom­ic activ­it­ies are non­mil­it­ary in nature.

“Po­loni­um can be used for civil pur­poses like nuc­le­ar bat­ter­ies, but can also be used for a neut­ron source for nuc­le­ar weapons. We would like to cla­ri­fy this is­sue,” Amano said at the Mu­nich Se­cur­ity Con­fer­ence this past week­end.

The U.N. agency in 2008 said it was sat­is­fied with pri­or Ir­a­ni­an dis­clos­ures tied to po­loni­um, and the IAEA chief’s reas­on for call­ing new at­ten­tion to the rare sub­stance was un­cer­tain. A num­ber of Ir­a­ni­an re­search­ers in the 1980s had sug­ges­ted pur­su­ing an in­vest­ig­a­tion on gen­er­at­ing the ma­ter­i­al, but the ef­fort ended pre­ma­turely fol­low­ing the de­par­ture of a key sci­ent­ist, ac­cord­ing to past dis­clos­ures re­por­ted by the agency.

The 2008 state­ment said the agency would also con­tin­ue its probe on the mat­ter with the in­ten­tion of veri­fy­ing its ini­tial con­clu­sions. Mark Hi­bbs, a nuc­le­ar ex­pert with the Carne­gie En­dow­ment for In­ter­na­tion­al Peace, said Amano’s or­gan­iz­a­tion might have ob­tained new data per­tain­ing to Ir­an’s work with the sub­stance.

IAEA spokes­wo­man Gill Tu­dor, though, said the po­loni­um is­sue was not new.

“The agency is keep­ing an eye” on the mat­ter, and its un­der­stand­ing would “be­ne­fit from fur­ther cla­ri­fic­a­tion,” she said.

Mean­while, Ir­an has gained ac­cess to $550 mil­lion in pre­vi­ously re­stric­ted funds un­der a six-month ac­cord with the five per­man­ent U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil mem­ber na­tions and Ger­many, Re­u­ters re­por­ted on Monday.

Tehran agreed in Novem­ber to re­strict some of its nuc­le­ar activ­it­ies in ex­change for curbs on in­ter­na­tion­al eco­nom­ic pres­sure. The United States and oth­er na­tions hope the in­ter­im ar­range­ment will pave the way for long-term re­stric­tions aimed at pre­vent­ing any Ir­a­ni­an ac­tions to de­vel­op nuc­le­ar arms.

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