Thursday, June 2, 2011

The UN nuclear watchdog urges Iran to adopt safety convention

The UN nuclear agency on Thursday urged Iran to join a safety convention adopted by 72 other nations, while the Middle Eastern country prone to earthquakes is prepared to put into operation its first nuclear power plant. The Nuclear Safety Convention of 1996 was designed to reinforce the standards after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, an issue intensely debated again this year by the nuclear crisis in the Japanese plant in Fukushima.

The convention is based on a system of mutual surveillance. Denis Flory, vice president of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA for its acronym in English), said Iran would be the only country operating a nuclear plant without participating in the convention. "Our first wish is that all member states (IAEA) that operate nuclear plants in the world are part of the nuclear safety convention," Flory said in a press conference.

Iranian media reported in mid-May that were doing the last tests on the Bushehr plant and that the complex would begin to generate electricity in the next two months. The first of a planned network of nuclear power by Iran, the plant built by Russia has failed several times to start operating.

A senior Russian official said in May that Bushehr would be fully operational within weeks. Flory said that Iran could demonstrate its commitment to safety by accepting part of the global convention. Western officials also called for Tehran to be integrated into the covenant. Iran is engaged in a protracted dispute with the West over its nuclear program.

His ties with the IAEA have deteriorated, but it is unclear whether this has influenced the country's position regarding the convention. Last week, the Iranian envoy at the agency said Iran is "showing the utmost care" to safety. Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh also suggested that the IAEA was already involved, stating in a public debate that "all security issues are monitored" by the Vienna-based agency.

But Flory said that the IAEA member states are responsible for security and the agency has no role in Bushehr. "We do not monitor Bushehr, as we do not monitor any other nuclear plant in the world," he said. "We have no authority to establish that they meet all safety standards of the IAEA."

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