3rd Feb. 2014. IAEA asking about Iranian polonium production
- Amano’s statement offered a hint that polonium-210 may be among topics it wants to discuss at the February 8 meeting: “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 too,” he said. A U.S. think-tank, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), said Iran had admitted to producing small amounts of polonium-210 in a Tehran research reactor in the early 1990s. “Iran claims that the polonium was produced as part of a study of the production of neutron sources for use in radioisotope thermoelectric generators and not for use in a nuclear weapons neutron initiator,” it added on its web site.
- The IAEA-Iran deal is separate from a November 24 breakthrough accord between Iran and six world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for a limited easing of sanctions that have battered its economy. That agreement took effect on January 20.
- Iran has moved quickly since Rouhani took office in August to improve relations with the West after years of confrontation under his hardline predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran denies accusations it is seeking to develop atomic bombs.
- As the first step to be implemented under the Iran-IAEA agreement, U.N. inspectors went to the Arak heavy-water production facility in December, a plant that is linked to a nearby reactor under construction that the West fears could yield plutonium for nuclear bombs once operational.
- The other measures concerned provision of information about nuclear facilities Iran has said it plans to build.
- The IAEA says it needs such access and data to gain a better understanding of Iran’s nuclear program and to ensure there is no diversion of atomic material for military purposes.
- Iran says it is only refining uranium to fuel a planned network of nuclear power plants. But the same material can also provide the fissile core of an atomic bomb if enriched more.
- Diplomats say the six first steps are relatively easy to implement and that it will be more difficult for Iran to agree to other action sought by the IAEA, including access to the Parchin military site where the U.N. agency believes nuclear weapons-relevant explosives tests took place a decade ago.
- Iran and the IAEA will meet again in Tehran on February 8 to discuss future measures. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told a news conference on Friday that they should include issues related to what the U.N. agency calls the “possible military dimensions” to Iran’s nuclear program.