The head of the U.N. nuclear agency discusses Iran, North Korea and how nuclear power can fight climate change

The head of the U.N. nuclear agency discusses Iran, North Korea and how nuclear power can fight climate change
  1. The head of the U.N. nuclear agency discusses Iran, North Korea and how nuclear power can fight climate change
    Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, says the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula is "grave," but inspectors are ready to return if a deal is…
    Middle Easte

As the world’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency is responsible for ensuring nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes. That has rarely been easy.

Established as an agency of the United Nations in 1957, the IAEA has been at the center of one of the world’s biggest nonproliferation crises — in Iran, where its inspectors are monitoring the 2015 nuclear deal. They are barred from the other, in North Korea, which kicked the agency out in 2009.

Director-General Yukiya Amano, a Japanese diplomat, has led the agency since 2009 and was recently elected to a third term. In a recent interview, he defended the IAEA’s inspections program in Iran and said worries over weapons distracted attention from constructive applications of nuclear energy. Here are excerpts from the conversation.

Are you disappointed when critics of the Iran deal question the IAEA’s ability to monitor Iran’s nuclear program?

We are a technical organization and I am discharging my responsibilities based on rules, based on the IAEA standard safeguards practice. We simply keep on working and monitoring and verifying the nuclear-related commitments made by Iran under the [nuclear deal] in an impartial, objective and professional manner. So, whatever happens, we keep on working.

'World's most robust' nuclear inspection program under fire as Trump tries to rewrite the Iran deal »

Are you inspecting Iranian military sites?

When we identify the need, we seek access to the locations. We don’t make a difference between civilian and military locations, [but] we don’t discuss details of where we go.

Iranian officials insist that military sites are off-limits, when you’re saying that isn’t the case. Are those comments unhelpful?

We hear many remarks, not only from Iran, but from other countries too. But our job is to analyze the facts. Facts mean nuclear material and facilities related to nuclear material. The function and objective of the IAEA is not to analyze remarks.

The IAEA has produced seven reports on Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, but critics say you’re being too soft on Iran and not providing enough details.

The information collected by inspectors must be kept confidential. These people complain that they don’t have information related to Iran, but they don’t have information about Germany, Japan or Kenya either. It’s like a doctor. People go to a doctor with the understanding that he won’t disclose sensitive information.

Explainer: What the Iran nuclear agreement means »

But you have the discretion to decide what to release. If the Iran inspections are going smoothly, why not disclose more information to respond to your critics?

Discretion means when I have a good reason. It doesn’t mean the director-general can do whatever he likes to do. When there is concern of a violation, and when there is a U.N. resolution, yes. But it is not the practice that some countries ask more and I say, “Let’s give more,” or, “Let’s give less.”

If President Trump puts more pressure on Iran, will IAEA inspectors lose the access they currently enjoy?

It’s very difficult to foresee what will happen. As we are a technical organization … speculation does not make sense for us. We have cameras, we have [electronic equipment] seals, we have inspectors, so we are factual and impartial and that is our advantage.

What is the IAEA doing in North Korea, where the last inspectors were thrown out in 2009?

We are observing the North Korean nuclear program through satellite imagery and collecting open source information. I decided to establish a small team in August with the objective to enhance our capability to monitor the North Korean nuclear program and enhance our readiness to go back to North Korea. I don’t mean that I see an immediate opportunity. It’s obvious the situation is very serious and grave. Their nuclear program is making progress. Therefore, we need to update the training of our inspectors, procure the necessary equipment and make a verification plan … so that if we are authorized, we can send our inspectors at short notice.

The IAEA conducts training on nuclear technology for plant breeding at its laboratory in Seibersdorf, Austria. The IAEA conducts training on nuclear technology for plant breeding at its laboratory in Seibersdorf, Austria. International Atomic Energy Agency

Nuclear power produces less carbon than fossil fuels. How can it help combat climate change?

The amount of carbon dioxide emissions that the use of nuclear energy can reduce — it’s equivalent to the amount emitted by India or Russia. That is a huge amount. Thirty countries use nuclear power for the time being, and about 30 more are interested. In countries where people feel the effects of climate change, where we need to develop new plant varieties, if we apply gamma rays, we can accelerate plant mutations and identify the right crop varieties that are resistant to disease. Ocean acidification has become a huge problem all over the world, but if you observe radiation coming from isotopes, you can diagnose the…

  1. Newly Declassified Documents Confirm U.S. Backed 1953 Coup in Iran Over Oil Contracts - Middle Easte
    10.07 / 03:37
    Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman speak with Professor Ervand Abrahamian, author of Iran Between Two Revolutions, about the newly declassified State Department documents which show oil contracts played a key role in the U.S.-backed 1953 coup in Iran that led to the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. (Democracy Now!)  New Revelations of the [&…
  2. Trump’s Immanent Withdrawal from the Iran Deal Will Endanger the World - Middle Easte
    10.07 / 00:45
    President Trump is about to take action that will withdraw the United States from the “Iran Nuclear Deal”. On October 15, Trump will reportedly “decertify” American participation in this historical agreement. This action is dangerous. This action will endanger the…
  3. #Idlibisburning, but tell me lies, sweet little lies - Middle Easte
    10.06 / 17:11
    Turn the page. Change the channel. Click on another article. The news is too harrowing... #Idlibisburning The post #Idlibisburning, but tell me lies, sweet little lies appeared first on…
  4. Washington condemns Kurdish referendum as Iraq mobilizes its army - Middle Easte
    10.06 / 17:06
    Washington has long promoted the KRG, but views its current independence bid as an obstacle to US plans to escalate military-strategic confrontation with…
  5. Saudi Aramco CEO says not discussing role in company's IPO with Russian companies - Saudi Arabia
    10.06 / 17:04
    Saudi Aramco isn’t talking with any Russian companies about possible participation in its initial public offering, the head of the state oil producer said as Saudi Arabia’s king led a delegation on a historic visit to Rus…
  6. Saudi oil minister says no slippage in schedule for Aramco's IPO - Saudi Arabia
    10.06 / 17:04
    Saudi Arabia said the schedule for the blockbuster initial public offering of its state-owned oil giant isn’t “slipping,” with the kingdom still targeting a sale by the end of 2018…
  7. Oil edges higher as Saudi-Russia encounter reassures oil bulls - Saudi Arabia
    10.06 / 17:04
    Oil rose the most in a week as the world’s biggest oil exporters, Saudi Arabia and Russia, signaled continued cooperation on efforts to erode a global crude g…
  8. Saudis say Russian cooperation “breathed life” back into OPEC - Saudi Arabia
    10.06 / 17:04
    Cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Russia has “breathed life back into OPEC” and made the kingdom’s oil minister more optimistic about the outlook for the market than he has been for several years…
  9. Gazprom Neft partners with Saudi Aramco on oilfield technology development - Saudi Arabia
    10.06 / 17:04
    Gazprom Neft has signed a memorandum of cooperation with Saudi Aramco, the national oil company of Saudi Arabia, to extend their partnership in oil and gas industry. Signatories to the document were Alexander Dyukov, CEO of Gazprom Neft, and Amin H. Nasser, President and CEO, Saudi…
  10. Russia's Lukoil, Iran's national oil company partner in Persian Gulf, South Caspian - Iran
    10.06 / 17:04
    A Lukoil a wholly-owned subsidiary, Lukoil-Engineering, and the National Iranian Oil Company, signed a memorandum of understanding.…
  11. Oil slides as boost from demand, Iraq tension seen as temporary - Iraq
    10.06 / 17:04
    Oil slid in New York after its biggest monthly gain in more than a year as the boost from seasonal demand and political tensions in Iraq was expected to…
  12. Qatar fund is said to explore asset sales as new deals on hold - Qatar
    10.06 / 17:04
    Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is weighing more asset sales after reducing holdings in Credit Suisse Group AG and Rosneft PJSC to support the country’s economy amid a standoff with its neighbors, according to people familiar with the mat…
  13. Rise in ‘Bigoted Incivility’ - When Your Groceries Come With a Side of Hate - Middle Easte
    10.06 / 14:28
    SAN FRANCISO – When Mohammad S. put in for a delivery with Instacart, the San Francisco company that allows users to order groceries online, the last thing he expected was that he’d become a target of hate. Which explains his…
  14. Trump Administration Signals Plans to Abandon Iran Deal - Middle Easte
    10.06 / 14:28
    With a looming deadline on whether to continue the suspension of sanctions on Iran, the Trump administration is frantically working to demonstrate Tehran’s non-compliance under the so-called Iran Deal and thereby fulfill an ill-conceived campaign promise. The problem is t…
  15. Ess Gezint: “Cheese Kaltsonia: Greek-Judeo Recipes with Personal Histories” - Israel
    Born of Greek-Jewish parents who lost most of their family members on all sides during the Holocaust, Mr. Dostis has long been passionate about his Greek-Jewish heritage, tradition, and…
  16. Do Liberal Democrats Want War With Russia? - Middle Easte
    10.06 / 09:42
    Stephen F. Cohen “Russiagate” is abetting the possibility of direct military conflict with Moscow, and liberals, once opponents of such politics, are promoting it. The post Do Liberal Democrats Want War With Russia? appeared first on The Nat…
  17. Letters From the October 16, 2017, Issue - Middle Easte
    10.06 / 09:42
    Our Readers, Eric Alterman A peek inside the rogues’ gallery… A real Shonda… End of the line… Tending our rural roots… The post Letters From the October 16, 2017, Issue appeared first on The Nation…
  18. Congress Must End US Military Support for the Horrific Saudi Bombing of Yemen - Middle Easte
    10.06 / 09:42
    John Nichols A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Yemen, and the US military is making things worse. Four members of Congress want to force a vote that could get the US out of an undeclared war and begin to address the crisis. The post Congress Must End US Military Support for the Horrific Saudi Bombing of Yemen appeared first on The…
  19. Congress’s War Powers Must Be Made a Reality - Middle Easte
    10.06 / 09:42
    Katrina vanden Heuvel It’s time to put an end to the establishment default about endless wars without victory or sense in the Middle East. The post Congress’s War Powers Must Be Made a Reality appeared first on The Nat…
  20. Palestinian Workers Are Now Unionizing in the West Bank - Middle Easte
    10.06 / 09:42
    Miriam Berger The political front is stalemated, and the occupation grinds on—but some Palestinians are creating their own facts on the ground. The post Palestinian Workers Are Now Unionizing in the West Bank appeared first on The N…