At the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 56th annual general conference in Vienna, Iran’s nuclear chief claimed that “terrorists and saboteurs” may have infiltrated the IAEA. The Vienna conference ends on Friday. Meanwhile, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Iran's chief nuclear negotiator have agreed to defer further talks on Iran's nuclear programme, until after Ms. Ashton meets with the six world powers involved in the talks next week.
In Asia, Japan announced that it intends to stop using nuclear power by 2040 last week. The decision is a sharp move away from policy goals set before last year's Fukushima disaster that sought to increase the share of atomic energy to more than half of Japan’s electricity supply.
Iranian nuclear chief condemns the IAEA
Iran’s most senior atomic energy official, Mr. Abbasi-Davini told IAEA participants: "Terrorists and saboteurs might have intruded the agency and might be making decisions covertly." The IAEA did not comment on Mr. Abbasi’s assertions, but, in a statement on Tuesday, the IAEA’S director general, Yukiya Amano, highlighted the urgency for Iran to fully cooperate with the agency.
Last week, the IAEA rebuked Iran for refusing to grant inspectors unlimited access to sites where they believe suspicious activity may have occurred. Iran has insisted it is enriching uranium for peaceful use, arguing the nuclear program is aimed only at making reactor fuel and doing medical research. Mr Abbasi insists that "The Islamic Republic of Iran ... has always opposed and will always denounce the manufacture and use of weapons of mass destruction”. He says accusations that Iran has worked secretly on nuclear arms are based on fabricated U.S. and Israeli intelligence. Iran frequently accuses the IAEA of anti-Iran bias in its push to ensure that all of Tehran's nuclear activities are peaceful.
In an interview with Meet The Press on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged American voters to elect a president willing to draw a "red line" with Iran. Mr. Netanyahu has asked President Barack Obama and other world leaders to state clearly when Iran would face a military attack. Despite the pressure, U.S. President Barack Obama and his top aides believe that Iran hasn't decided yet whether to build a bomb and that there would be time for action beyond sanctions already in place.
On Monday Mr. Abbasi suggested that any Israeli strikes would not succeed in slowing down his country's nuclear program. He said that experts have "devised certain ways through which nuclear facilities remain intact under missile attacks and raids."
Report: Iran warns of IAEA 'terrorist infiltration' [BBC, 17 Sep 2012]
Report: Iran Nuclear Chief Accuses IAEA [Wall Street Journal, September 17 2012]
Report: Iran Nuke Chief harshly criticizes atomic agency [Straits Times, 17 Sep 2012]
Talks Deferred Pending Six-Country Meeting
Meanwhile, Iran's lead nuclear negotiator and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton have met in Istanbul.
They agreed to await the outcome of a meeting between Ms. Ashton and officials from the six world powers she represents, before more talks with Iran are scheduled.
Six world powers - the United States, Russia and China plus three EU nations: France, Germany and Britain - have sought to persuade Iran to scale back its nuclear programme through intensifying economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure.
Ms. Ashton is expected to meet the six powers on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly ministerial meetings next week in New York.
Report: Iran awaits outcome of UN meeting before further nuke talks [Jerusalem Post (Reuters), 19 Sep 2012]
Report: Negotiators Meet in Bid to Revive Iran Talks
Japan Aims to Abandon Nuclear Power by 2040
Japan has joins countries like Switzerland and Germany by turning away from nuclear power after last year's earthquake triggered the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986. Japan was the third-biggest user of atomic energy before the disaster. By applying a 40-year limit on the lifetime of reactors, most will be shut down during the 2030s.
Japan plans to triple the share of renewable power to 30 percent of its energy mix by abandoning nuclear power. It plans to remain a top importer of oil, coal and gas for the foreseeable future.
"This is a strategy to create a new future," a policy statement said, after key ministers finalized the decision last Friday. "It is not pie in the sky. It is a practical strategy."
Cost of Abandoning Nuclear
Japan's powerful business lobbies argue that exiting nuclear energy in favor of fossil fuels and renewable sources, such as solar and wind power, will boost electricity prices, making industry uncompetitive and complicating efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The shift also threatens the financial viability of Japan's nuclear operators, which will be saddled with high decommissioning costs.
"To consider such an energy policy runs counter to a growth strategy," Hiromasa Yonekura, the chairman of the biggest business lobby, told reporters.
Anti-nuclear advocates counter that warnings of economic damage are exaggerated. They say the policy shift will create new openings for corporate profits in areas, such as renewable energy, that will spark innovation and give the economy a boost.
"A total exit from nuclear is positive for the economy, on balance," said Andrew Dewit, a professor at Rikkyo University who studies energy policy.
Recent surveys show that most voters want a nuclear power exit sooner rather than later. Before the disaster, about a third of Japan's electricity was provided by nuclear power. Since then, it has had to increase oil imports from the Mideast.
Report: Japan aims to abandon nuclear power by 2030s [Reuters, 14 September 2012]