UN Nuclear Agency Gets Extra $195 Million to Transfer Technology

The United Nations nuclear watchdog got an extra $194.6 million to transfer atomic technology to developing countries even after a U.S. government investigation found the aid may help some nations to build bombs.

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-member board of governors approved $97.7 million for new nuclear aid projects and $96.9 million for continuing projects, the Vienna-based organization said in a statement issued today.

While most of the IAEA aid helps developing countries use nuclear technology to treat cancer patients, boost crop yields and eliminate pests, a 2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office report said that some of the money may also help nations to build atomic bombs. The IAEA has helped rogue nuclear-weapons states like North Korea and Pakistan to mine uranium, the key material needed to make atomic bombs.

“The GAO report on technical cooperation had ‘poisoned the waters,’” the U.S. IAEA mission wrote in a December 2009 cable. The cable, posted on Wikileaks.org, shows that staff members from the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee reported growing reluctance among some people in Congress to fund IAEA technical cooperation activities.

The IAEA declined access to congressional investigators looking into whether the agency’s nuclear-aid projects could lead to nuclear weapons. The U.S. “will continue to have concerns about the potential proliferation risks posed” by the IAEA until the agency becomes more transparent, according to a Government Accountability Office report published in March 2009.

The IAEA press office and U.S. mission in Vienna declined to comment when contacted by telephone.

Weapons Cover

Syrian nuclear authorities declined last month to allow IAEA inspectors to visit a uranium separation plant built with UN technology and funds. The plant, located in Homs, may be connected with nuclear work that the U.S. alleges is a cover for a weapons program, the agency said Nov. 23 in a restricted report obtained by Bloomberg News.

Pakistan, home to nuclear-weapons smuggler Abdul Qadeer Khan, has been the No. 2 recipient of IAEA technical cooperation aid since exploding six test bombs 12 years ago, according to IAEA data compiled by Bloomberg News. Pakistan chairs the IAEA’s board, which convenes tomorrow in the Austrian capital.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Tirone in Vienna at jtirone@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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