VIENNA, Austria - New traces of plutonium and enriched uranium -
potential material for atomic warheads - have been found in a nuclear waste
facility in Iran, a revelation that came Tuesday as the Iranian president
boasted his country's nuclear fuel program will soon be completed.
The International Atomic Energy Agency report detailing the discovery also
faulted Tehran for not cooperating with the UN watchdog's attempts to
investigate other suspicious aspects of Iran's nuclear program.
Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, in a two-hour news conference in Tehran, asserted the world has no
choice but to "live with a nuclear Iran," although he conceded his country was
"still in the first stages" of its uranium enrichment program.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaks with to the
media during a press conference in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2006.
Ahmadinejad on Tuesday said Iran would soon celebrate completion of its
controversial nuclear fuel program. [AP]
So far, Tehran has been able to activate only two small experimental pilot
enrichment plants that U.N. officials say have frequently broken down and have
produced only small amounts of material suitable for nuclear fuel.
But Iran has progressed enough since resuming enrichment activities in
February to provoke a U.N. Security Council demand that it freeze its
program - a call Tehran has ignored. It says it intends to move toward
large-scale uranium enrichment involving 3,000 centrifuges by late 2006, then
expand the program to 54,000 centrifuges.
Iranian nuclear officials say 54,000 centrifuges would produce enough
enriched uranium to fuel a 1,000-megawatt reactor, such as the one being built
by Russia that is near completion at the southern city of Bushehr. Experts have
estimated Iran would need only 1,500 centrifuges to produce a nuclear weapon.
Tehran insists it is only seeking to generate low-enriched uranium for
nuclear fuel and not the highly enriched variety needed for weapons. It also
denies it is building a heavy water research reactor at Arak in order to obtain
plutonium for nuclear arms, asserting it only wants to produce radioactive
isotopes for medical research and treatment.
Still, when finished - probably early in the next decade - Arak
could produce enough plutonium for about two bombs a year.
The Arak plant, along with the discovery of a secret Iranian enrichment
program in 2003, Tehran's refusal to cease uranium enrichment and findings by
IAEA inspectors have increased suspicions about Iran's program.
The IAEA board in February referred Iran to the Security Council, suggesting
it had breached the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and might be trying to make
The U.S. and its European allies are negotiating with Russia and China over a
draft Security Council resolution that would penalize Iran for its refusal to
respect an Aug. 31 deadline to halt enrichment.
Ahmadinejad remained defiant. "I'm very hopeful that we will be able to hold
the big celebration of Iran's full nuclearization in the current year," he said.
Iran's calendar year ends March 20.
But he acknowledged Iran still has a long way to go before it can produce
enough enriched uranium for the reactor at Bushehr. "We need time to produce
enough fuel for one complete nuclear power plant," he said.
Tuesday's IAEA report, prepared for next week's meeting of the agency's
35-nation board, did little to dispel concerns.
Beyond detailing the new plutonium and enriched uranium findings at a nuclear
waste facility, it also faulted Tehran for lack of cooperation.
"The agency will remain unable to make further progress in its efforts to
verify the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran"
without more cooperation from Tehran, the report said.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, said Ahmadinejad's
comments and the IAEA's latest discoveries "both demonstrate the urgency for the
Security Council to act on Iran."
"Sanctions are obviously the only means to get Iran's attention," Bolton
As expected, the four-page IAEA report, made available to The Associated
Press, confirmed that Iran continues uranium enrichment experiments in defiance
of the Security Council.
A senior UN official who was familiar with the report cautioned against
reading too much into the findings of traces of highly enriched uranium and
plutonium, saying Iran had explained both and they could plausibly be classified
as byproducts of peaceful nuclear activities.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not
authorized to discuss the report publicly, said that while the uranium traces
were enriched to a higher level than needed to generate power, they were below
The findings, however, were likely to be cited by the US and other nations
suspicious of Tehran's nuclear agenda as adding to circumstantial evidence
Tuesday's summary also listed specific cases in which Tehran failed to
cooperate with agency inspectors.
They said Iran refused to let the IAEA increase monitoring of enrichment
facilities at Natanz, did not respond to a request for more information on its
enrichment program, denied access to suspicious equipment or military personnel,
and refused to provide information on apparent experiments linking nuclear and
ballistic missile research.
The report will be discussed by the IAEA board next week at a meeting
expected to be dominated by Iran's nuclear program, particularly its intention
to ask the agency for technical help for its Arak reactor.
Diplomats from nations on the IAEA board say the U.S. is lobbying against
Iran's request. Seven diplomats, who demanded anonymity in exchange for
discussing confidential information, told the AP they believed the board would
deny Iran's request.