The U.N. nuclear watchdog says it wants Iran to clarify past production of small amounts of a rare radioactive material that can help trigger an atomic bomb explosion, Reuters reported from Vienna.
The comment about polonium by U.N. atomic agency chief Yukiya Amano at a weekend security conference in Munich suggested the issue may be raised at talks between his experts and Iranian officials on February 8.
It also signalled his determination to get to the bottom of suspicions that Iran worked on designing a nuclear warhead.
“The separation of polonium-210, in conjunction with beryllium, can be part of a catalyst for a nuclear chain reaction,” the Arms Control Association, a U.S. research and advocacy group, said on its web site.
An IAEA investigation into Iran’s behavior is running in parallel with new measures to curb Iran’s nuclear program under a deal negotiated with world powers in November.
The U.N. body has made clear it wants Iran to start addressing long-standing allegations that it researched how to make a nuclear bomb.
A U.S. think-tank, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), said Iran had admitted to producing small amounts of polonium-210 in a Tehran research reactor in the early 1990s.
The IAEA wants Iran to address issues in an IAEA report from 2011 that included a trove of intelligence data pointing to past activities that could be linked to nuclear weapon development, some of which it says may still continue.
Among other research activity, the IAEA said it had received information regarding possible experiments linked to a neutron initiator - a device that floods the core of highly enriched uranium with subatomic particles to touch off the chain reaction of a nuclear explosion.