The first nuclear power plant in Iran ramped up production on Monday. The event prompted rounds of celebrations there and in a few other locales, but generated considerable worry elsewhere around the globe. Iran says the facility is designed to produce electricity and nothing else. Other nations -- including the United States and its allies -- worry that the plant is a cover for the development of nuclear weapons. There is reason for the international concern.
Rumors that Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons abound. On Monday, for example, the head of the United Nations nuclear agency said he soon would publish new information that supports his belief -- one shared by many other scientists and diplomats -- that Iran may be developing a nuclear warhead. Perhaps it is purely coincidental that the revelation about possible warhead experiments, which leave the U.N. agency "increasingly concerned" about Iran, came on the same day that the announcement about operations at the Bushehr plant. Perhaps not.
Whatever the case, events involving any nuclear activity in Iran require careful scrutiny. That's especially true since the International Atomic Energy Agency said "many member states" have provided "extensive and comprehensive" evidence that Iran continues to work toward the development of nuclear weapons. Indeed, credible reports suggest that Tehran is installing equipment to enrich uranium in an underground bunker designed to withstand heavy air attack. If true, that is an ominous sign .
Enrichment can produce nuclear fuel BOTH for energy production or scientific research, as well as weapons grade material. If enrichment is intended for peaceful purposes, there should be no need to put the facility underground. Besides, any enrichment activity in that country violates international constraints. Iran presently is under U.N. Security Council sanctions for refusing to end enrichment activities.
The tough talk by Yukiya Amano, head of the IAEA, is necessary. In the past, Iran has refused to cooperate fully with the agency about reports that the Muslim state had blueprints related to a nuclear payload on a missile, that it had experimented in detonating a nuclear charge, and that it had worked on other components of a weapons program. If current information is true, it continues to do so.
Amano said Monday that Iran had provided "greater transparency" to the IAEA recently, but that the country remained intransigent on some nuclear issues. More openness and disclosure on the part of officials there is required, particularly since Amana said that his agency "continues to receive new information" about attempts to develop a nuclear warhead. More often than not in recent history, such information has proved to be true.
Iran can say what it wants about its commitment to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, but until it allows regular inspections and monitoring of all its nuclear sites, it should be regarded as a danger to global equilibrium.