VIENNA: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) talks open in Vienna Monday focusing on a new nuclear security plan following the disaster at Japan's Fukushima plant and amid fears over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Last week the IAEA board of governors announced a safety action plan, which they hope will raise safety standards and enhance environmental protection.
The move came in the wake of the nuclear leak disaster at Fukushima, caused by a quake-induced tsunami, which was the biggest accident in the sector since Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986.
However the watered-down draft plan will not be legally binding, leading critics to describe it as toothless.
The deal must now be ratified by the 151 member states at the IAEA general conference, which runs until Friday.
The non-binding nature of the agreement, which also lacks any deadlines, is a result of pressure from the United States and China.
Germany, and to a lesser extent France, voiced criticism at the code of conduct's lack of teeth.
Paris is “satisfied” with the new IAEA plan but will put forward suggestions Monday for “more ambitious” action,, French Energy Minister Eric Besson told AFP.
On Iran's controversial nuclear programme, Washington is pressing the US agency to provide more information on the growing concern over the suspected military nature of Tehran's ambitions.
Western powers accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of civil energy programme, a charge which Tehran denies.
A report presented to the 35-member IAEA board in Vienna Wednesday said the agency was “increasingly concerned” about a possible military dimension to Iran's nuclear work, about which it “continues to receive new information”.
Glyn Davies, US envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told reporters in the Austrian capital last week that “the real fear is that Iran is continuing ... and has over many years continued to explore and to develop technologies with no applications other than in the military sphere,” Also on the IAEA menu will be North Korea's nuclear programme.
Pyongyang abandoned six-party talks - grouping China, Japan, the United States, the two Koreas and Russia - aimed at scrapping its nuclear arsenal in April 2009 and conducted its second nuclear test a month later.
But diplomatic efforts to restart the dialogue have picked up in recent months, with nuclear envoys from the two Koreas holding a rare meeting in Bali in July followed the same month by bilateral US-North Korea talks in New York.
Last month North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il held his first summit with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Siberia, and voiced hopes for the resumption of the so-called six-party nuclear disarmament talks.
The delegates will also discuss Syria which has said it is willing to meet nuclear inspectors in Damascus next month to discuss a desert site bombed by Israel in 2007 and thought to have been a secret nuclear facility.
Finally the 55th IAEA general conference will ponder the idea of creating a nuclear arm-free zone in the Middle East.
Israel is though to have developed a nuclear arsenal, though it has not officially said so.