Posts Tagged Nuclear
July 02, 2018
ZURICH (AP) — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has arrived in Switzerland for talks expected to focus on salvaging progress from the Iran nuclear deal after the Trump administration’s walkout. Rouhani on Monday began a two-day visit to the neutral Alpine nation, starting in Zurich before heading to Bern, the capital, for deal-signings, talks and a news conference on Tuesday.
Since 1980, shortly after Iran’s Islamic Revolution, Switzerland has held the “protecting power mandate” on behalf of the United States in Iran. It recently became an intermediary between Iran and regional rival Saudi Arabia.
Rouhani is leaving Iran just as protests have erupted in the country’s south, and Trump said he got Saudi Arabia to agree to increasing oil production — which could lower the price of oil, possibly impacting Iran’s economy.
April 03, 2015
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Capping exhausting and contentious talks, Iran and world powers sealed a breakthrough agreement Thursday outlining limits on Iran’s nuclear program to keep it from being able to produce atomic weapons. The Islamic Republic was promised an end to years of crippling economic sanctions, but only if negotiators transform the plan into a comprehensive pact.
They will try to do that in the next three months. The United States and Iran, long-time adversaries who hashed out much of the agreement, each hailed the efforts of their diplomats over days of sleepless nights in Switzerland. Speaking at the White House, President Barack Obama called it a “good deal” that would address concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called it a “win-win outcome.”
Those involved have spent 18 months in broader negotiations that were extended twice since an interim accord was reached shortly after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani entered office. That deal itself was the product of more than a year of secret negotiations between the Obama administration and Iran, a country the U.S. still considers the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.
Opponents of the emerging accord, including Israel and Republican leaders in Congress, reacted with skepticism. They criticized the outline for failing to do enough to curb Iran’s potential to produce nuclear weapons or to mandate intrusive enough inspections. Obama disagreed.
“This framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon,” he declared. “This deal is not based on trust. It’s based on unprecedented verification.” If implemented, the understandings reached Thursday would mark the first time in more than a decade of diplomatic efforts that Iran’s nuclear efforts would be rolled back.
It commits Tehran to significant cuts in centrifuges, the machines that can spin uranium gas to levels used in nuclear warheads. Of the nearly 20,000 centrifuges Iran now has installed or running at its main enrichment site, the country would be allowed to operate just over 5,000. Much of its enriched stockpiles would be neutralized. A planned reactor would be reconstructed so it produced no weapons-grade plutonium. Monitoring and inspections by the U.N. nuclear agency would be enhanced.
America’s negotiating partners in Europe strongly backed the result. President Francois Hollande of France, which had pushed the U.S. for a tougher stance, endorsed the accord while warning that “sanctions lifted can be re-established if the agreement is not applied.”
Obama sought to frame the deal as a salve that reduces the chances of the combustible Middle East becoming even more unstable with the introduction of a nuclear-armed Iran. Many fear that would spark an arms race that could spiral out of control in a region rife with sectarian rivalry, terrorist threats and weak or failed states.
Obama said he had spoken with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and that he’d invite him and other Arab leaders to Camp David this spring to discuss security strategy. The Sunni majority Saudis have made veiled threats about creating their own nuclear program to counter Shia-led Iran.
The American leader also spoke by telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, perhaps the sharpest critic of the diplomacy with Iran. Netanyahu told Obama a deal based on the agreement “would threaten the survival of Israel.” The White House said Obama assured Netanyahu that the agreement would not diminish U.S. concerns about Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and threats toward Israel.
Obama saved his sharpest words for members of Congress who have threatened to either try to kill the agreement or approve new sanctions against Iran. Appearing in the Rose Garden, Obama said the issues at stake are “bigger than politics.”
“These are matters of war and peace,” he said, and if Congress kills the agreement “international unity will collapse, and the path to conflict will widen.” Hawks on Capitol Hill reacted slowly to the news from the Swiss city of Lausanne, perhaps because the framework was far more detailed than many diplomats had predicted over a topsy-turvy week of negotiation.
House Speaker John Boehner said it would be “naive to suggest the Iranian regime will not continue to use its nuclear program, and any economic relief, to further destabilize the region.” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said his panel would vote this month on legislation giving Congress the right to vote on a final deal. Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who penned a letter that many GOP senators signed last month to Iran’s leaders, said he would work “to protect America from this very dangerous proposal.”
Many of the nuclear limits on Iran would be in place for a decade, while others would last 15 or 20 years. Sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programs would be suspended by the U.S., the United Nations and the European Union after the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Iran’s compliance.
In a joint statement, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Iran’s Zarif called the agreement a “decisive step.” Highlighting Iran’s effort to show a new face of its government, Zarif then held a news conference, answering many questions in English, and Obama’s statement was carried live and uncensored on Iranian state TV.
Still, all sides spoke with a sense of caution. “We have taken a major step, but are still some way away from where we want to be,” Zarif told reporters, even as he voiced hope that a final agreement might ease suspicion between the U.S. and Iran, which haven’t had diplomatic relations since the 1979 overthrow of the shah and the subsequent U.S. Embassy hostage crisis in Tehran.
Zarif said the agreement would show “our program is exclusively peaceful, has always been and always will remain exclusively peaceful.” But he also said it would not hinder the country’s pursuit of atomic energy for civilian purposes. “We will continue enriching,” he said. “We will continue research and development.” He said the heavy water reactor would be “modernized.”
In India, Syed Akbaruddin, a spokesman for the External Affairs Ministry, said Friday his country welcomed the deal. “The announcement yesterday underlines the success of diplomacy and dialogue, which India has always supported and which we hope would lead to a comprehensive agreement by June 30,” he said.
Kerry lashed out at critics who have demanded that Iran halt all uranium enrichment and completely close a deeply buried underground facility that may be impervious to an air attack. “Simply demanding that Iran capitulate makes a nice sound bite, but it is not a policy, it is not a realistic plan,” Kerry said.
The final breakthrough came a day after a flurry of overnight sessions between Kerry and Zarif, and meetings involving the six powers at a luxury hotel in Lausanne. As late as Thursday afternoon, it still appeared an agreement might be beyond reach as the U.S. pushed to spell out concrete commitments and Iran adamantly demanded that only a vague statement be presented. In an apparent compromise, some details were noted in the general statement and others were saved for a more detailed position paper issued by the White House and State Department.
Some of that tension remained. “There is no need to spin using ‘fact sheets’ so early on,” Zarif tweeted. He also questioned some of the assertions contained in the document, such as the speed of a U.S. sanctions drawdown.
Associated Press writers Julie Pace and Bradley Klapper contributed to this report from Washington.
August 29, 2012
VIENNA (AP) — The U.N. nuclear agency has created a special Iran Task Force of nuclear weapons experts, intelligence analysts and other specialists focused on probing allegations that Tehran has been — or is — secretly working on developing atomic arms, according to an internal document shared with The Associated Press.
The announcement from the International Atomic Energy Agency says the elite squad started work Aug. 10. Dated Wednesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency statement says the unit will concentrate on implementing IAEA agreements with Iran, allowing it to monitor its nuclear activities as mandated by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
It also says it will focus on “relevant” IAEA and U.N Security Council resolutions on Iran. Both have demanded that Tehran stop activities that could be used to make nuclear weapons and cooperate with the agency’s investigation of suspicions Tehran worked on nuclear weapons.
But while drawing together its best experts, the new task force will have no more power regarding inspections of Iran’s known or suspected nuclear sites than previous IAEA inspectors did. Agency attempts to visit a site at Iran’s Parchin military complex southeast of Tehran have documented IAEA limitations. For months, satellite images have recorded what the International Atomic Energy Agency suspects is an attempt to sanitize the site of suspected work on explosive charges used to detonate a warhead. At the same time, Iran has repeatedly rebuffed agency efforts for access — including last Friday.
The most recent satellite images now show what diplomats last week said appears to be pink material shrouding buildings apparently linked to the alleged experiments, effectively blinding agency attempts to monitor a site that they have been kept from visiting. The diplomats demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the IAEA’s Iran investigation.
Iran says such allegations are based on evidence fabricated by the United States and Israel and insists its nuclear program is meant only for making reactor fuel, medical isotopes and peaceful research. But it refuses to give up uranium enrichment, which can produce both reactor fuel and the core of nuclear warheads, despite offers of fuel from abroad. And it has stonewalled an IAEA probe into its alleged weapons work for more than four years, increasing concerns that it has something to hide.
Creating a unit focused on only one country is an unusual move for the IAEA, reflecting the urgency the U.N. nuclear watchdog is attaching to Iran amid fears that it is moving closer to the ability to make nuclear weapons, despite its denial. With diplomatic efforts to engage Tehran on its nuclear activities stalemated — and Israel warning that it will not tolerate an Iran armed with atomic arms — concerns are growing that time is running short to defuse tensions peacefully
Israel is particularly worried about a fortified bunker at Fordo, where Iran has begun producing uranium enriched to a level closer to the grade used in nuclear weapons than its main stockpile of fuel-grade material. About 70 kilometers (40 miles) south of Tehran, Fordo has about 800 centrifuges operating so far, enriching to a 20-percent level, and continues assembling others without operating them — diplomats say that close to 3,000 are now fully or partially screwed together, including hundreds over the past three months
In Tehran, Iran’s IAEA envoy, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told reporters Tuesday that his country will “not suspend enrichment activities, even for a second.” Diplomats had told the AP last week that the IAEA was forming a special Iran team. The announcement confirming that information was forwarded Wednesday by a diplomat who demanded anonymity because he was not authorized to share confidential and internal IAEA documents. A phone call seeking comment from Soltanieh went to his voice mail.
Instead of focusing only one country, agency experts up to now have been tasked with following dozens of nations as they look for signs indicating secret attempts to make nuclear weapons. Some IAEA officials feel that means that they often spend an inordinate amount of time monitoring countries that are unlikely to engage in such activities — Western European nations, for instance — meaning that not enough attention is paid to potential proliferators.
One of the diplomats who spoke to the AP last week said the Iran team will be comprised of about 20 experts drawn from the main IAEA pool. The IAEA announcement said the squad will be headed by Massimo Aparo. A nuclear engineer, Aparo is an IAEA veteran who has held numerous senior positions linked to nonproliferation within and outside of the IAEA and was already in charge of the Iran file before the agency revamp.
The agency said he will be reporting to IAEA Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts, the head of the agency’s nuclear inspectors and the agency’s point man on Iran.
By Jack Phillips
September 12, 2011
The launching of the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant was inaugurated by Iranian officials on Monday, according to local media reports.
The plant was connected to Iran’s national grid earlier this month after several years of delays and officials told Tehran Times that it is generating around 40 percent of its power capacity. The plant will reach full capacity by the end of the year, officials said.
Iran coordinated a ceremony that was attended by local as well as Russian officials.
“The launch of Bushehr nuclear power plant is one of the most important events over the past three decades,” said Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of the Russia-based Rosatom company, according to IRNA.
However, International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano expressed concerns on Monday regarding Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
“Iran 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,” he said.
If the Islamic Republic cannot provide more transparency, it is not possible to “conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities,” Amano added.
Source: The Epoch Times.
Sep 12, 2011
Tehran – Iranian and Russian officials Monday inaugurated Iran’s first nuclear power plant in the southern Gulf port of Bushehr, the Khabar news network reported.
The ceremony was attended by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi and nuclear chief Fereydoun Abbasi, as well as Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko and the head of Russia’s state-run nuclear power corporation Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, Khabar reported.
Forty per cent of the 1,000-megawatt capacity is to be connected to the national energy grid in the initial phase, and full capacity is scheduled to be reached in November.
The plant uses Russian-made fuel and its nuclear waste is to be returned to Russia. Iran and Russia have granted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) full supervision of the joint plant.
‘This is the first nuclear power plant in the Middle East, and Iran and Russia have set an example for peaceful nuclear cooperation,’ said Abbasi, Iran’s vice-president and head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization.
‘The start of the Bushehr plant symbolically shows to the world how a country could maintain its freedom and independence through resistance,’ he added, in reference to Western opposition towards Iran’s nuclear programs.
Responding to concerns from neighboring sheikhdoms, Abbasi said in his inauguration speech that safety was a top priority at the Bushehr plant.
In a joint press conference, Shmatko said that all internationally required safety measures should be fully implemented before using the plant at full capacity.
‘Based on clear international regulations and standards, more tests should be made before starting the plant at full capacity and Iranian experts should not sacrifice safety for the sake of reaching the final phase earlier,’ Shmatko said.
While Iran wants the plant to reach maximum level as soon as possible, Shamtko stressed that the connection of the plant to the national grid was being made according to a very precise safety plan.
This includes switching off the plant’s reactor several times to carry out additional tests before gradually increasing output to 50, 75 and finally 100 per cent of the total capacity of 1,000 megawatts.
‘All relevant tests made so far have been approved by the IAEA and further tests are necessary to make sure that the plant will work safely for decades,’ the Russian official said in the press conference, shown by Khabar TV.
Abbasi confirmed that Iran and Russia had made initial agreements to build further nuclear power plants, probably in or near Bushehr on the Persian Gulf, but did not rule out cooperation with other countries.
‘As our final aim is to reach production of 20,000 megawatts and we cannot realize this aim just by our own experts, we are open to cooperation with other countries as well,’ Abbasi told reporters.
The Iranian nuclear chief once again reiterated that Iran had a legitimate right to pursue peaceful nuclear programs, as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. International pressure and United Nations sanctions would not hinder Iran’s nuclear work, he said.
‘We are committed to all international nuclear regulations but not beyond that,’ Abbasi said, referring to IAEA demands that Iran responds to Western intelligence reports accusing Tehran of working on a secret nuclear weapon program.
Western media representatives were not allowed to attend the inauguration ceremony, and only Iranian and Russian reporters were dispatched to Bushehr.
The construction of the plant was started in 1975 by a German company, which dropped the project in the 1990s due to political considerations.
In 1995, Russia signed a contract to complete the plant but the start-up date was delayed for technical and political reasons.
Iran and Russia are reportedly to have equal shares in the joint venture operating the Bushehr plant, but gradually all shares are to be transferred to the Iranian side.
Moscow plans to hand the facility completely over to Iranian hands within the next three years, but Tehran wants full control much sooner.
Source: Monsters and Critics.
Sept 5, 2011
Iran offered on Monday to grant the UN nuclear watchdog “full supervision” of its atomic program for five years if sanctions are lifted, as the EU insisted Tehran first meet its international obligations.
“We have proposed that the agency keep Iran’s activities and nuclear program under full supervision for five years, providing the sanctions are lifted,” Iranian nuclear chief Fereydoun Abbasi Davani told ISNA news agency.
He neither said when the offer was made to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nor what he meant by “full supervision.”
Iran is targeted by four sets of UN Security Council sanctions over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment amid fears in the West that it seeks to build a nuclear bomb — a charge it vehemently denies.
Much of Iran’s nuclear activities are already under the control of the IAEA, including uranium enrichment — a process which can produce the fuel for a nuclear reactor and also the fissile material for an atomic warhead.
The IAEA said in a confidential report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP on Friday, it is “increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations.”
These included “activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile”, according to the report, which is due to be discussed by the IAEA’s 35-member board of governors at a September 12-16 meeting.
But Abbasi Davani insisted such allegations were “baseless and fabricated,” and advised IAEA chief Yukiya Amano against “mentioning the alleged studies (in his reports) until he has discussed them with Iran.”
If Amano can demonstrate that the IAEA is “not influenced or pressured by hostile countries, we can have more cooperation with the agency,” he said.
On Monday, the European Union reacted to Abbasi Davani’s latest remarks, saying that the Islamic republic must first re-establish confidence for any sanctions to be lifted.
“Iran still has to comply with its international obligations, despite today’s announcement,” Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, told AFP.
Ashton has made a “concrete proposal” to Iran aimed at building confidence over the aims of its atomic program, Mann said. “Unfortunately, so far, Iran has not taken up this offer to enter into meaningful talks.”
“Existing UNSC (UN Security Council) resolutions foresee the lifting of sanctions once confidence has been re-established,” he said.
The UN watchdog has for years criticized Tehran for refusing to answer a number of controversial questions about its nuclear program, and for denying access to certain sites, including the heavy water reactor Iran is building in the central city of Arak.
Iran says the Arak facility — whose commission has been delayed several times — is being constructed by domestic contractors using indigenous expertise, and will house a 40-megatt research reactor.
Progress at the site allegedly been slowed down by sabotage from abroad.
Abbasi Davani, who survived a November 29 assassination attempt which Iran blamed on arch-foes the United States and Israel, also said there had been a rise in Western attempts to sabotage the nuclear program.
“We have witnessed a rise in acts of sabotage against Iran’s nuclear facilities,” he said. “They continuously seek to harm our nuclear facilities through viruses or sales of faulty equipment.”
Tehran has blamed Israel and the United States for the unexplained disappearances of several of its military officials and nuclear scientists, and for a computer virus attack by the Stuxnet malware in the summer of 2010 against its centrifuges, the uranium enriching device.
Source: Space War.
Sept 4, 2011
Iran’s first nuclear power plant has been hooked up to the national grid supplying 60 megawatts of its 1,000 megawatt capacity, the country’s Atomic Energy Organization announced on Sunday.
“Last night at 11:29 pm (1859 GMT), the Bushehr power plant was connected with 60 megawatts to the national grid,” the organization’s spokesman Hamid Khadem Qaemi, told Al-Alam television.
The connection of the Russian-built plant in southern Iran to the national grid was originally scheduled for the end of 2010.
The Bushehr plant was started up in November 2010 but repeated technical problems delayed its operations, leading to the removal of its fuel rods last March.
“The capacity will gradually increase and it (is going through its) testing phase and on Shahrviar 21 (September 12) in a ceremony the power plant will reach its 40-percent capacity,” Khadem Qaemi said.
The deputy atomic chief in charge of power plants, Mohammad Ahmadian, told state television the plant was expected to reach full capacity at “around the end of Aban or beginning of Azar (November).”
“But it is very important for us to take these final steps with utmost safety concerns in mind. We want to have guaranteed functional operation,” Ahmadian added.
In mid-August, Iran’s atomic organization chief Fereydoon Abbasi Davani said the plant was expected to reach “full capacity of 1,000 megawatts” in late November or early December.
Russia, which built the plant, has pinned the delays on Iran, saying its engineers have been forced to work with outdated parts. The latest delay in March was blamed on wear and tear at the plant.
Construction started in the 1970s with the help of German company Siemens, which quit the project after the 1979 Islamic revolution over concerns about nuclear proliferation.
In 1994, Russia agreed to complete the plant and provide fuel for it, with the supply deal committing Iran to returning the spent fuel to allay Western concerns over its nuclear ambitions.
Western governments suspect Iran is seeking an atomic weapons capability under the guise of its civilian space and nuclear programs, a charge Iran vehemently denies.
Iran on Friday welcomed as a “step forward” an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on its nuclear activities, saying it highlighted positive steps taken by Tehran towards “cooperation and transparency.”
But the UN atomic watchdog said in a confidential report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP on Friday, that it was “increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations.”
These included “activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile”, according to the report, which is due to be discussed by the IAEA’s 35-member board of governors at a September 12-16 meeting.
Source: Nuclear Power Daily.