IAEA found nothing serious at Iran site: ElBaradei

November 7, 2009 - 0:0

VIENNA (Reuters) – UN inspectors found ""nothing to be worried about"" in a first look at a uranium enrichment site in Iran last month, the International Atomic Energy chief said in remarks published Thursday.

Mohamed ElBaradei also told the New York Times that he was examining possible compromises to unblock a draft nuclear cooperation deal between Iran and three major powers that has foundered over Iranian objections. ElBaradei was quoted in a New York Times interview as saying his inspectors' initial findings at the fortified site beneath a desert mountain near the Shiite holy city of Qom were ""nothing to be worried about.""
""The idea was to use it as a bunker under the mountain to protect things,"" ElBaradei, alluding to Tehran's references to the site as a fallback for its nuclear program in case its larger Natanz enrichment plant were bombed by a foe like Israel.
""It's a hole in a mountain,"" he said.
The Islamic Republic revealed the plant's existence to the Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog on September 21. It said the site, which remains under construction, would enrich uranium only to the low 5 percent purity suitable for power plant fuel.
After talks with Iran and three world powers, ElBaradei drafted a plan for Iran to transfer some of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia and France to turn it into fuel for a Tehran reactor that makes isotopes for cancer treatment. But since the October 19-21 talks, Iran has made clear it is loath to ship its own LEU abroad because of its strategic value, and would prefer buying the reactor fuel it needs from foreign suppliers. Iran has called for more talks.
ElBaradei was quoted by the New York Times as saying ""the issue is timing, whether the uranium goes out and then some time later they get the fuel, as we agreed (tentatively) in Geneva, or whether it only goes at the same time as the fuel is delivered.""
""There are a lot of ideas. One is to send (Iran's uranium) to a third country, which could be a friendly country to Iran, and it stays there. Park it in another state ... (for) something like a year..., then ... bring in the fuel. The issue is to get it out, and so create the time and space to start building trust.""