Iran could face new international scrutiny over previous activities tied to a potential ingredient for initiating nuclear detonations, Reuters reports.
The International Atomic Energy Agency might discuss Iran's past work with polonium 210 at a Saturday meeting with Iranian delegates, the news agency reported on Monday, citing recent comments by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano. The U.N. organization is seeking to shed light on Iran's atomic ambitions by investigating allegations that the Middle Eastern nation may once have conducted experiments relevant to nuclear-bomb development. Tehran insists its atomic activities are nonmilitary in nature.
"Polonium can be used for civil purposes like nuclear batteries, but can also be used for a neutron source for nuclear weapons. We would like to clarify this issue," Amano said at the Munich Security Conference this past weekend.
The U.N. agency in 2008 said it was satisfied with prior Iranian disclosures tied to polonium, and the IAEA chief's reason for calling new attention to the rare substance was uncertain. A number of Iranian researchers in the 1980s had suggested pursuing an investigation on generating the material, but the effort ended prematurely following the departure of a key scientist, according to past disclosures reported by the agency.
The 2008 statement said the agency would also continue its probe on the matter with the intention of verifying its initial conclusions. Mark Hibbs, a nuclear expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Amano's organization might have obtained new data pertaining to Iran's work with the substance.
IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor, though, said the polonium issue was not new.
"The agency is keeping an eye" on the matter, and its understanding would "benefit from further clarification," she said.
Meanwhile, Iran has gained access to $550 million in previously restricted funds under a six-month accord with the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany, Reuters reported on Monday.
Tehran agreed in November to restrict some of its nuclear activities in exchange for curbs on international economic pressure. The United States and other nations hope the interim arrangement will pave the way for long-term restrictions aimed at preventing any Iranian actions to develop nuclear arms.