Iran invites UN inspectors to Arak heavy-water reactor

IAEA director-general Amano says agency might need more funding for verification work.

By REUTERS
November 28, 2013 18:17
2 minute read.
A general view of the Arak heavy-water project, 190 km (120 miles) southwest of Tehran

Iran's Arak heavy water reactor 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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VIENNA - Iran has invited UN inspectors to visit its Arak heavy-water production plant on December 8, the first concrete step under a cooperation agreement to clarify concerns about Tehran's disputed nuclear program.

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also said the IAEA was looking into how Sunday's agreement between Iran and six world powers to curb Tehran's nuclear activity could be "put into practice" concerning the UN agency's role in verifying the deal.

The IAEA will expand its monitoring of Iran's uranium enrichment sites and other facilities under the interim accord, reached after marathon talks between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China.

"This will include the implications for funding and staffing," Amano told the IAEA's 35-nation governing board, according to a copy of his speech.

The International Atomic Energy Agency can mobilize expertise and staff from within the organization for an increased workload in monitoring whether Iran is complying with the interim accord with the major powers to curb its nuclear program, Amano said.

But its budget is very tight, he added: "Naturally this requires a significant amount of money and manpower ... I don't think we can cover everything by our own budget."

The IAEA was studying how to put into practice Sunday's agreement with respect to its inspectors' role in checking compliance and this would take "some time," Amano said, adding it was a complicated task that needed proper preparations.

About 10 percent of its annual 121-million-euro ($164 million) budget for inspections is already devoted to Iran. The agency has two to four staff in Iran virtually every day of the year, with some 20 dedicated to inspector activity there.

Under the Geneva interim accord, there will be "significant extra work and they will require extra resources to do it," a Western envoy said, with "the extremely complex and difficult implementation" expected to start in January.

The agreement between Iran and the powers is designed to halt any further advances in Iran's nuclear campaign and buy time for talks on a final settlement of the decade-old dispute.

After years of confrontation, it underlined a thaw in relations between Iran and the West after the election of Rouhani on a pledge to end Tehran's isolation and win relief from sanctions that have battered the oil producer's economy.

The IAEA's visit next month to the heavy water production plant near the town of Arak is part of a separate agreement signed earlier this month between the Vienna-based UN agency and Iran.

The IAEA has not been at the site for about two years, despite repeated requests, but Iran agreed on November 11 to grant access to this facility as well as to a uranium mine within three months.

The Arak facility produces heavy water intended for use in a nearby research reactor that is under construction. The West is concerned that the reactor, which Iran has said could start up next year, could yield plutonium for bombs once it is operational. Iran says it will produce medical istopes.

Iran has agreed to halt installation work at the reactor and to stop making fuel for it.

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