Varjoranta to become new deputy director general of IAEA

Diplomatic officials announced on Friday that a senior Finnish nuclear official will become the new chief United Nations nuclear inspector in charge of monitoring sensitive issues, such as Iran's disputed atomic activities.

Tero Varjoranta, who currently serves as the head of Finland's Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, is set to succeed Herman Nackaerts as the deputy director general for safeguards of the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency. One Western diplomat said that Varjoranta was an excellent choice, Voice of America reports.

Under Nackaerts, a Belgian national, the safeguards department submitted a landmark report to the member states of the IAEA in late 2011 that provided a wealth of intelligence information about the research and other work in Iran related to nuclear weapons development. Since that time, Nackaerts and other senior officials visited Tehran multiple times to press Iran to address questions raised by the report. The officials were unable to obtain the answers they requested.

The IAEA said that its inspectors need wider access to Iranian sites, officials and documents as part of the long-stalled investigation into suspected atomic bomb research by Iran. Iran denies that it plans to build nuclear weapons and claims that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.

Varjoranta's appointment is expected to be announced at a meeting that begins on Monday. One diplomat said Varjoranta's job would start after the summer.

Varjoranta worked at the IAEA in 2010 and 2011 as a director of a unit dealing with nuclear fuel and waste technology following a 30-year career at Finland's Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, Voice of America reports.