IAEA Rebukes Iran for Nuclear Violations

On March 3, 2020, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a pair of reports that lambasted Iran for violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In the first report, the U.N. nuclear watchdog found Iran had tripled its stockpile of low enriched uranium since its last quarterly report. The larger stockpile could shorten Iran’s breakout time – the time it would take to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. But the IAEA did not find evidence that Iran was taking steps toward producing a weapon. 

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Iran first surpassed its limits on uranium stockpiling in July 2019 after the Trump administration launched its “maximum pressure campaign.” Since then, Iran has taken other incremental steps away from the JCPOA, both to pressure European countries to do more to offset U.S. sanctions and to gain leverage for possible future diplomacy with the United States. Iran now has over 1,000 kg of low enriched uranium, well above the 300 kg allowed under the nuclear agreement. Iran’s stockpile, which consists of uranium enriched up to 4.5 percent, could fuel one bomb if enriched to 90 percent or above. 

The second IAEA report was an unprecedented rebuke of Iran’s refusal to grant inspectors access to three sites of interest. The sites are believed to have been active parts of Iran’s nuclear program in the early 2000s, prior to the diplomatic talks during the Obama administration that led to the JCPOA in 2015. The JCPOA did not require Iran to disclose prior military dimensions of its nuclear program, but it did require Iran to provide access to IAEA inspectors.

The report said it found evidence from early July 2019 that was consistent with efforts “to sanitize part of the location” to obscure nuclear material. The IAEA said it wanted answers from Iran regarding the presence of natural uranium that was found at one of those sites. Iran rejected outright requests for access by IAEA inspectors and strongly denied it had conducted any illicit activity related to nuclear weapons development at those sites.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will not recognize any allegation on past activities and does not consider itself obliged to respond to such allegations,” Iran wrote in a letter quoted in the report.  

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Iran’s refusal to cooperate was cause for “serious concern,” the agency said, given that access to sites was guaranteed under the Additional Protocol agreed to by Iran as part of the 2015 nuclear agreement. The new head of the nuclear watchdog, Rafael Grossi, urged Iran to comply with its commitments. “Iran must decide to cooperate in a clearer manner with the agency to give the necessary clarifications,” he told AFP on March 3.

In remarks to the press, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran's failure to declare all nuclear material would “constitute a clear violation” of its safeguards agreements under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). “The regime must immediately cooperate with the IAEA and fully comply with its IAEA safeguards obligations. All nations must hold Iran accountable to its commitments. Otherwise, the NPT isn’t worth the paper that it’s written on,” he said on March 5. The following are excerpts from the IAEA reports arranged by topic with Pompeo's comments.

 

Enriched Uranium Stockpile 

“As of 19 February 2020, the Agency verified that, based on the JCPOA and decisions of the Joint Commission, Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile, comprising enriched uranium produced at FEP, PFEP and FFEP was 1020.9 kg (+648.6 kg since the previous quarterly report)… The total enriched uranium stockpile comprises 214.6 kg of uranium enriched up to 3.67% U-235, produced prior to 8 July 2019, and 806.3 kg of uranium enriched up to 4.5% U-235, produced since 8 July 2019.” 

–March 3, 2020, IAEA quarterly report 

 

Access to Undeclared Sites 

Iran has not provided access to the Agency to two locations under Article 4.b(i) and Article 5.c. of the Additional Protocol and has not engaged in substantive discussions to clarify Agency questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities in Iran. This is adversely affecting the Agency’s ability to clarify and resolve the questions and thereby to provide credible assurance of the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran. The Director General calls on Iran immediately to cooperate fully with the Agency, including by providing prompt access to the locations specified by the Agency in accordance with its obligations under the Safeguards Agreement and the Additional Protocol.

–March 3, 2020, IAEA safeguards report 

The Agency has detected natural uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at a location in Iran not declared to the Agency. Interactions between the Agency and Iran to resolve the matter continue.

–March 3, 2020, IAEA quarterly report 

As a result of its ongoing evaluations, the Agency identified a number of questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities at three locations in Iran that had not been declared by Iran. These questions were included in three separate letters – one for each location in which the Agency, pursuant to Article 69 of the Safeguards Agreement and Article 4d of the Additional Protocol, requested Iran, inter alia, to provide clarifications on whether:  

  • Natural uranium, as described by the Agency in its letter, had been used in particular activities at an unspecified location in Iran and where any such material is currently located;  
  • Iran had used or stored nuclear material and/or conducted nuclear-related activities, including research and development activities related to the nuclear fuel cycle, at a location specified by the Agency;  
  • Iran had used or stored nuclear material at another location specified by the Agency. The Agency also referred to activities, observed by the Agency at the location from early July 2019 onwards, that were consistent with efforts to sanitize part of the location.

...

On 27 January 2020, Iran informed the Agency verbally that it was unable to provide access to either location. In a letter dated 28 January 2020, Iran informed the Agency, inter alia, that… ‘the Islamic Republic of Iran will not recognize any allegation on past activities and does not consider itself obliged to respond to such allegations.

–March 3, 2020, IAEA safeguards report 

 

Heavy Water and Reprocessing 

Iran has not pursued the construction of the Arak heavy water research reactor (IR-40 Reactor) based on its original design. Iran has continued to inform the Agency about the inventory of heavy water in Iran and the production of heavy water at the Heavy Water Production Plant (HWPP) and allowed the Agency to monitor the quantities of Iran’s heavy water stocks and the amount of heavy water produced at the HWPP (para. 15). As previously reported, on 17 November 2019, the Agency verified that Iran’s stock of heavy water had exceeded 130 metric tonnes (para. 14). On 17 February 2020, the Agency verified that the HWPP was in operation and that Iran’s stock of heavy water was 132.7 metric tonnes.

–March 3, 2020, IAEA quarterly report 

 

Advanced Centrifuges 

On 25 February 2020, the Agency verified that Iran was continuing to accumulate enriched uranium … through feeding UF6 into cascades of up to: 20 IR-2m centrifuges; 20 IR-4 centrifuges; 10 IR-5 centrifuges; 10 IR-6 centrifuges and another cascade of 20 IR-6 centrifuges; and 20 IR-6s centrifuges.  

The following single centrifuges were being tested with UF6 but not accumulating enriched uranium: two IR-2m centrifuges; one IR-3 centrifuge; one IR-4 centrifuge; one IR-5 centrifuge; one IR-6 centrifuge; one IR-6m centrifuge; one IR-6s centrifuges; one IR-6sm centrifuge; two IR-7 centrifuges; two IR-8 centrifuges; one IR-8s centrifuge; one IR-8B centrifuge; one IR-s centrifuge; and one IR-9 centrifuge.  

On 25 February 2020, the Agency verified that Iran was also continuing to accumulate enriched uranium … through feeding UF6 into a cascade of 164 IR-4 centrifuges, a cascade of 164 IR-2m centrifuges and a cascade of 72 IR-6 centrifuges, respectively.

–March 3, 2020, IAEA quarterly report 

 

Access to Declared Sites 

The Agency has continued to have regular access to relevant buildings at Natanz… and performed daily access upon Agency request. 

–March 3, 2020, IAEA quarterly report 

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

March 5, 2020, in a statement

On March 3 in Vienna, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi issued two new reports that heighten already serious concerns that the Islamic Republic of Iran is hiding its nuclear material and nuclear activities.

Iran is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Iran’s safeguards agreements, under that Treaty, require it to declare nuclear material to the IAEA and provide IAEA inspectors with access for verification.  Iran’s intentional failure to declare such nuclear material would be a clear violation of its safeguards agreement required by the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  The regime must immediately cooperate with the IAEA and fully comply with its IAEA safeguards obligations.  Otherwise, the NPT isn’t worth the paper it is written on.

The IAEA’s latest reports are all the more troubling because we know that Iran continues to lie about its past nuclear weapons program and concealed a vast archive of records from those efforts when it concluded the nuclear deal – not to mention its lies about downing a civilian airliner, and its suppression of the extent of its coronavirus outbreak.  Given Iran’s prior covert nuclear weapons program and ignominious record of duplicity, any undeclared nuclear material or activities in Iran today would be an extremely serious matter.

The United States remains committed to denying Iran any pathway to a nuclear weapon.  In light of Iran’s past nuclear weapons program, it is imperative that Iran verifiably demonstrate that it has permanently abandoned all such work.  Any new deal addressing nuclear concerns in Iran must be built on robust and effective verification.

The international community must speak clearly and with one voice:  full and transparent cooperation with the IAEA and compliance with the NPT is the only path forward for Iran.
 

March 5, 2020, in remarks to the press

"This past week, the IAEA issued two reports that the Islamic Republic of Iran is hiding nuclear material – its nuclear material and nuclear activities.
Iran is party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Iran’s safeguard agreements under that treaty require it to declare nuclear material to the IAEA and provide the IAEA inspectors with full access to verify those sites and those materials.

"Iran’s intentional failure to declare such nuclear material, as reported by the IAEA this week, would constitute a clear violation of its safeguards agreements required by the NPT.

"The regime must immediately cooperate with the IAEA and fully comply with its IAEA safeguards obligations.  All nations must hold Iran accountable to its commitments.  Otherwise, the NPT isn’t worth the paper that it’s written on.

"The IAEA’s latest reports are all the more troubling, because Iran continues to lie about its past nuclear weapons program, just as it has lied about downing a civilian airliner and its suppression of the extent of its coronavirus outbreak.

"Given Iran’s prior covert nuclear weapons program and ignominious record of duplicity, any undeclared nuclear material or activities in Iran is an extremely serious matter.
The United States remains committed to denying Iran any pathway to a nuclear weapon.  In light of Iran’s past nuclear weapons program, it is imperative that Iran verifiably demonstrate that it’s permanently abandoned all of its previous work.

"Iran’s current expansion of its uranium enrichment program would have been permitted by the nuclear deal in 2031.  Here again we see the shortsighted nature of that deal.

"More immediately, seven months from now we will see the lifting of the arms embargo on Iran. The UN Security Council must act to renew the arms embargo before it expires."

 

 

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