Iran is still not providing the cooperation needed to conclude that its nuclear programme is purely for peaceful activities, the head of the United Nations atomic watchdog agency warned today.
“Full implementation by Iran of its binding obligations is needed to establish international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano told its Board of Governors in Vienna.
Iran has repeatedly stated that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes of providing energy, but many other countries contend that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and last June the Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions against it, citing the proliferation risks of its nuclear programme and its continued failure to cooperate with the IAEA.
The issue has been of international concern since the discovery in 2003 that Iran had concealed its nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The IAEA continues to verify that declared material at nuclear facilities and outside locations that Iran has reported under its Safeguards Agreement as a signatory to the NPT has not been diverted to other uses, Mr. Amano said.
But the country “is not providing the necessary cooperation to enable the Agency to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities,” he warned. “I request Iran to take steps towards the full implementation of its Safeguards Agreement and its other obligations.”
Turning to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), where IAEA inspectors were ordered out in April 2009, Mr. Amano said its nuclear programme “remains a matter of serious concern for the North-East Asia region and beyond.” He cited the recent construction of a new uranium enrichment facility and a light water reactor, which underlined “how important it is that the Agency should be present.”
He urged the DPRK to fully implement all relevant resolutions of IAEA’s General Conference and the Security Council, which has imposed sanctions on the country. IAEA inspectors were ordered out in April 2009 after the Council condemned a rocket launch, finding that it breached a resolution calling for an end to further nuclear testing or ballistic missile launches after the DPRK claimed to have conducted a nuclear test in October 2006.
Mr. Amano also reported that Syria has not cooperated with the Agency since June 2008 over the unresolved issues of the Dair Alzour site and some other locations, halting progress towards a resolution.
But he said he believed that a letter from the Syrian Foreign Minister pledging to continue to work with the IAEA to resolve all outstanding technical issues in response to his own requesting prompt access to information and locations related to Dair Alzour “could represent a step forward.” Agreement has been reached for a visit to the Homs area.
Turning to more general themes within the purview of his Agency, Mr. Amano noted that 2010 was another promising year for nuclear power generation with construction starts on new reactors increasing once again, bringing to 66 the number under construction around the world.
“This is further evidence that nuclear power is enjoying growing international acceptance as a stable and clean source of energy that can help to mitigate the impact of climate change,” he said, stressing that access to nuclear power should not be limited to developed countries alone but should also be available to interested developing countries to meet their growing energy needs.
He also noted that global nuclear safety has improved significantly since the world’s worst nuclear accident 25 years ago at Chernobyl, when an estimated 8 million people in what is now Ukraine, Belarus and Russia were exposed to radiation, and thousands contracted thyroid cancer and other diseases.
“To take just one example, the number of unplanned automatic power reactor shutdowns – known as ‘scrams’ – has dropped by nearly 80 per cent since 1990,” he said. “A more robust safety culture has taken hold throughout the global nuclear power sector, important international safety conventions have come into force and the Agency has introduced a successful programme of safety reviews and safety assessments.
“Nevertheless, we must always guard against complacency,” he added.