Iran owns up to plant as UN calls for disarmament

25 September 2009

Within a day of the United Nations Security Council passing its first comprehensive action on nuclear issues since the mid-1990s, Iran has admitted it has been building a new uranium enrichment plant that subsequent information places at Qom.

At a summit-level meeting chaired by US President Barack Obama, the 15-member UN Security Council unanimously adopted a new resolution giving its backing to efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons, ensure reductions in weapons stockpiles and control fissile materials. Resolution 1887 firmly emphasizes that non-compliance with non-proliferation obligations is a matter to be brought to the attention of the Security Council and strongly voices its support for the Nuclear non-Proliferaiton Treaty (NPT), calling on the few states that are not signatories to accede to it.

"Nuclear disarmament is the only sane path to a safer world," UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon told the summit in his opening remarks, adding that "nothing would work better in eliminating the risk of their use than eliminating weapons themselves."

Although the text of the resolution reaffirms the right to pursue peaceful nuclear energy under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supervision, it also urges states to curb the export of nuclear-related material to countries that are not in compliance with safeguards agreements, and calls for stronger safeguards to reduce the likelihood of peaceful nuclear activities being diverted to weapons use. It also called upon all states to refrain from conducting nuclear test explosions and to ratify the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty (CTBT) in order to bring it into force as soon as possible, and called on the Conference on Disarmament to quickly negotiate a treaty banning the production of fissile materials for explosive devices.

Iran confirms second plant

Within 24 hours of the UN resolution, the IAEA has confirmed that Iran has informed it of the construction of a new pilot fuel enrichment plant.

According IAEA spokesperson Marc Vidricaire, Iran notified the agency of the plant on 21 September, and in response the IAEA has requested specific information and access to the facility as soon as possible. "The Agency also understands from Iran that no nuclear material has been introduced into the facility," Vidricaire said.

 

Information subsequently released by the Institute for Science and International Security placed the facility in a military base near the town of Qom, 120 kilometres south of the Iranian capital Teheran. The organization also obtained satellite imagery of a possible site which appeared to show two tunnel entrances. Images from this year showed much more development than those from 2005.

 

A statement from the US government said it "and several international partners have substantial information" that Qom is an enrichment site. "Iran needs to come clean, take concrete and tangible steps to create confidence and transparency, and demonstrate that Iran is committed to establishing its peaceful intentions through meaningful dialogue and concrete action," said the USA, concluding with, "We are committed to serious, meaningful diplomacy."

 

Iran's first nuclear power plant, being built in collaboration with Russia, is nearing completion at Bushehr. However, although it is a signatory to the NPT, the country's program to develop its own uranium enrichment infrastructure was concealed for many years - a practice which seems to have continued. Iran's refusal to suspended its known enrichment related activities, it's failure to answer questions on cetain research programs and its work on heavy water projects has led to two rounds of UN sanctions against the country, and there is widespread speculation that a third round of sanctions is imminent.

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