Nuclear energy, if harnessed properly and safely, provides an exit from the problems associated with other sources of energy. Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), every country has the right to peaceful use of nuclear technology. The danger very often is that because of its fungible nature, making nuclear weapons and power plants can go hand in hand. And in geopolitically difficult corners of the world, this can lead to a chain of destabilizing consequences.
On Monday, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, said that IAEA had received “further information related to possible past or current undisclosed nuclear-related activities that seem to point to the existence of possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme”. He added that there are indications that certain of these activities may have continued until recently. One should not be lulled by the multiple qualifications in what he said. The fact is that Iran has been less than transparent about its nuclear activities, something that should concern the world.
This is the second time in less than a month that Amano has raised these concerns. In a 24 May report he raised similar concerns. Additional doubts have emerged over Tehran’s heavy water programme, specifically the use of uranium deuteride, a material that can be used to enhance fission chain reactions. Enquiries by IAEA on this subject have been rebuffed by the Iranians.
Iran has a standard response: It wants to switch to nuclear power in a big way so that it can export more oil. This may be true. But if it is so, then Tehran should be willing to cooperate with IAEA in removing nagging doubts about its nuclear intentions. Its refusal to let the global community keep a closer watch on its nuclear materials—enriched uranium specifically—is one irritant. There are countries such as Russia and Brazil—no US “puppets” that are willing to help Iran—but it refuses to budge.
Iran has declared that it is not interested in pursuing nuclear weapons. Its assertion should be believed. However, it needs to convince the world that that is the case. So far it has failed to do that.
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