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Volume 451: debated on Tuesday 7 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what (a) technical information and (b) analysis she has received differentiating Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons programme from a possible nuclear power programme. (99076)

The nature of Iran’s nuclear programme, its history of concealment, its continuing failure to co-operate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its refusal to take the steps required by the IAEA Board and UN Security Council have all contributed to international concern that its ambitions may not be, as it claims, solely peaceful.

We are deeply concerned by Iran’s uranium enrichment programme, which will help it develop the capability to produce fissile material suitable for use in nuclear weapons. While Iran’s enrichment activities would also help it develop the capability to produce fissile material suitable for use as fuel in power reactors, Iran has no production technology that would enable it to manufacture fuel from any enriched material, nor—with the exception of a reactor being built at Bushehr, for which Russia is contracted to supply fuel for 10 years—any power reactors (operational or in construction) requiring fuel.

The IAEA Director General, Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, has produced regular reports since 2003 on Iran’s nuclear programme. They have outlined serious outstanding questions that Iran needs to resolve. These include: how Iran came to possess and what use it made of a document on casting uranium hemispheres, whose only application is in nuclear weapons; why Iran conducted experiments on Polonium 210, which has virtually no civil use but can be used as a neutron initiator in nuclear weapons; why Iran’s military has been involved in what it claims is a purely civil programme; and why Iran is constructing a heavy water research reactor for which there is little apparent civil need, yet which would be ideally suited for the production of plutonium for use in nuclear weapons. Successive IAEA reports have made clear that Iran is failing to co-operate fully in answering these questions. Dr. ElBaradei reiterated in his speech to the UN General Assembly on 30 October that

‘the IAEA continues... to be unable to confirm the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme, which is a matter of serious concern’.