Iran and the IAEA
- Iran is a charter member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the guide for the global fight against the spread of atomic weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is for energy, not a bomb.
- Iran cites the NPT to justify its nuclear work, including uranium enrichment, which can be used to generate electricity or to make a bomb. Article IV guarantees “the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.”
- Iran claims to honor the NPT obligations for monitoring its atomic program. It has been careful not to break the safeguards agreement that allows U.N. inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to verify compliance with the NPT.
- The IAEA cited Iran for breach of safeguards, saying the Islamic Republic hid parts of its nuclear program and failed to answer questions on possible military work. This led the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions in 2010 to get Iran to provide data and to suspend enrichment to allay fears it seeks nuclear weapons.
- The IAEA will play a critical role in monitoring the implementation of the final nuclear deal reached by Iran and the world’s six major powers on July 14, 2015.
- The IAEA was empowered to monitor all sites where there was nuclear material. But it clashed with Iran over access to sites where nuclear material had not yet been introduced, such as at a reactor being built in Arak that could eventually make plutonium.
- The IAEA was particularly frustrated about Iran blocking access to key Iranian scientists, including Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who has allegedly led Iran’s atomic weapons work.
- The IAEA monitored Tehran’s compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions.
- It also oversaw attempts to supply fuel to a research reactor in Tehran.
- February 24, 2004: The IAEA reports that Iran is working to develop a more powerful centrifuge and on separating Polonium-210, which can be used in weapons.
- March 13, 2004: The IAEA board reprimands Iran for hiding possible weapons-related activities.
- March 17, 2004: Testifying before the U.S. Congress, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei says the “jury is still out” on Iran’s nuclear program.
- November 2004: In the Paris Agreement, European negotiators, the IAEA and Iran agree on the terms to suspend uranium enrichment.
- August 8, 2005: The IAEA reports that Iran had ended suspension and begun work to convert uranium into fuel for enrichment.
- September 2, 2005: The IAEA reports that there are still unresolved issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program and says that full Iranian cooperation is “overdue.”
- September 24, 2005: The IAEA board votes 22-1, with 12 abstentions, to find Iran in “non-compliance” with the NPT’s Safeguards Agreement. This clears the way to report Iran to the Security Council for action.
February 4, 2006: After failing to win Iran’s cooperation, the IAEA board votes 27-3, with five abstentions, to refer Iran to the Security Council, pending one more report from ElBaradei
February 27, 2006: ElBaradei reports that the IAEA is still uncertain about both the scope and nature of Iran’s nuclear program. The report is sent to the Security Council.
Case to the U.N.
- The Gchine mine in Bandar Abbas
- The Heavy Water Production Plant near Arak
- All new research reactors
- The identification of 16 sites designated for the construction of nuclear power plants
- Iran’s announcements about additional enrichment facilities
- Laser enrichment technology
Before the deal is implemented, the IAEA must confirm that Iran:
- Reduced its supply of excess heavy water and halted construction on the Arak reactor
- Reduced its capacity to 5,060 centrifuges, enrichment levels to 3.67 percent, and its uranium stockpile to 300 kg
- Ceased enrichment activity at Fordo
- Is conducting R&D within the parameters specified by the JCPOA
- Notified the IAEA that it has provisionally applied the Additional Protocol
- The IAEA was founded in 1957 as a direct result of the U.S. “Atoms for Peace” initiative to spread peaceful nuclear technology and stop the proliferation of atomic weapons. It has 165 member states.
- Iran had no centrifuges turning in 2003, when the IAEA investigation began. By August 2010, it had 3,772 centrifuges enriching uranium and 5,084 more installed but not yet enriching, according to an IAEA report.
- In August 2015, the IAEA reported that Iran had 16,428 centrifuges installed at Natanz and 2,710 installed at Fordo. The nuclear deal requires Iran to reduce its number of centrifuges to 6,104 -- 5,060 of which will be permitted to enrich uranium – for 10 ten years. The excess centrifuges will be placed under continuous IAEA monitoring.
- As of June 2015, 126 states had implemented the Additional Protocol. Iran was one of 20 states that had signed the protocol, but not brought it into force – the step required to make it legally binding for the state.
- Even under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial presidency, Tehran wanted to maintain at least minimal cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, since kicking out all inspectors could have led to a harsher international response, including more severe sanctions and even military strikes.
- The extent of international inspectors’ access to Iranian facilities – particularly military sites – was a key sticking point during the nuclear talks. If the deal is fully implemented, the IAEA will have greater access to information about Iran’s nuclear program for at least the next two decades.
- The Islamic Republic is likely to continue to insist its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful nuclear energy, even if other secret sites or work are uncovered.
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