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IAEA Freezes Iran Nuclear Aid Over Plutonium Risk

Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Ali Ashgar Soltanieh (left) talks with IAEA Secretary-General Muhammad el-Baradei in Vienna on November 23 (epa) November 23, 2006 -- UN diplomats have been quoted as saying that the UN nuclear watchdog's board of governors today blocked Iran's bid for technical aid for a reactor project due to fears it could yield weapons-grade plutonium.

But the decision, which the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) board adopted by consensus after days of wrangling between industrialized and developing nations, left open the possibility of revisiting Iran's request in future.

According to the diplomats, the board reached a compromise agreeing to give Iran the requested technical assistance on seven other nuclear energy projects judged not to pose a risk of being diverted to bomb-making.

(Reuters, AP, AFP)

Talking Technical

Talking Technical

A control panel at the Bushehr nuclear power plant (Fars)

CASCADES AND CENTRIFUGES: Experts and pundits alike continue to debate the goals and status of Iran's nuclear program. It remains unclear whether the program is, as Tehran insists, a purely peaceful enegy project or, as the United States claims, part of an effort to acquire nuclear weapons.
On June 7, 2006, RFE/RL correspondent Charles Recknagel spoke with nuclear expert Shannon Kile of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden to help sort through some of the technical issues involved. "[Natanz] will be quite a large plant," Kile said. "There will be about 50,000 centrifuges and how much enriched uranium that can produce [is] hard to say because the efficiency of the centrifuges is not really known yet. But it would clearly be enough to be able to produce enough [highly-enriched uranium] for a nuclear weapon in fairly short order, if that's the route that they chose to go...." (more)


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THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's complete coverage of controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program.


An annotated timeline of Iran's nuclear program.