U.N. Nuclear Watchdog Rebukes Iran

On November 17, the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s Board of Governors urged Iran to explain traces of uranium at three undeclared sites that date back to a covert program before 2003. The resolution – drafted by the United States, Britain, France and Germany – passed 26 to 2, with five abstentions and two countries absent. Russia and China, which have veto power at the U.N. Security Council, opposed the resolution. India, Namibia, Pakistan, Qatar and South Africa abstained.

The resolution expressed “profound concern” that Iran had not provided credible or accurate information on the uranium traces “despite numerous interactions” with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since 2019. The 35-nation Board of Governors called on Iran “to act on an urgent basis to fulfil its legal obligations.” The resolution also warned that the outstanding issues must be resolved for the agency to certify that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.

Grossi
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi

The resolution stopped short of referring the case to the U.N. Security Council for debate or potential action. But the United States, in a separate statement, warned that the Board of Governors “will have to be prepared to take further action, including under Article XII.C of the Agency’s Statute,” which includes referral to the Security Council.

In June, the IAEA board had passed a similar resolution, also sponsored by the United States, Britain, France and Germany. It passed 30 to 2, with three abstentions. Russia and China opposed the resolution. India, Pakistan and Libya abstained. 

Iran condemned the November resolution as a politicized move by the United States and its European partners. “The supporters of the draft resolution presented fake information and baseless claims to justify their unconstructive approach,” Mohsen Naziri-Asl, Iran’s ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, claimed. In a growing blame game, he said that the move “cast doubt” on prospects for reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Indirect talks between Washington and Tehran stalled in September 2022.

The United States, Britain, France, and Germany, however, held Iran responsible for the stalemate. “As in the past, Iran has argued that any [IAEA] Board action under this item may undermine our efforts to restore the JCPOA,’ they said in a joint statement. “It is Iran that has undermined these efforts by seeking to politicise its safeguards obligations, and so the [IAEA] Board can support diplomacy by underscoring its absolute support for the Agency in carrying out its vital mandate.”

In a separate statement, the three European powers criticized Iran for advancing its nuclear program. Tehran had stockpiled 18 times the amount of enriched uranium allowed under the JCPOA. And it enriched larger quantities of uranium to 60 percent, a technical step away from the 90 percent purity needed to fuel a nuclear bomb. “Iran continues its unprecedented nuclear escalation,” Britain, France and Germany warned. “This raises serious doubts as to the nature of Iran’s nuclear programme, which threatens regional and international security.”

On November 22, Iran announced that it had started enriching uranium to 60 percent purity at Fordow, an underground nuclear facility. “We had said that Iran will seriously react to any resolution and political pressure,” nuclear chief Mohammad Eslami said. Iranian media reported that advanced IR-6 centrifuges were being used. The full text of the IAEA resolution is below, followed by statements by the United States, Britain, France, and Germany.

 

IAEA Board of Governors Resolution

NPT Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran

The Board of Governors,

(a) Commending the continued professional and impartial efforts of the IAEA Director

General and the Secretariat to implement Iran’s NPT Safeguards Agreement,

(b) Emphasizing the essential and independent role of the IAEA in verifying Iran’s compliance with its NPT-required safeguards obligations,

(c) Stressing the importance of Iran’s compliance with its safeguards obligations and the need for Iran to cooperate fully and in a timely manner with the Agency with a view to clarifying and resolving the long outstanding safeguards issues detailed in the Director General’s report GOV/2022/63 and in several prior reports,

(d) Noting the Director General’s deep concern that undeclared nuclear material had been present at several undeclared locations in Iran and that its current location(s) are not known to the Agency, and his assessment that nuclear material used in Iran was not declared as required under Iran’s NPT Safeguards Agreement,

(e) Recalling the Board of Governors’ resolution of 19 June 2020 contained in GOV/2020/34 which called upon Iran to fully cooperate with the Agency and to satisfy the Agency’s requests without any further delay,

(f) Recalling the Board of Governors’ resolution of 8 June 2022 contained in GOV/2022/34 which called upon Iran to act on an urgent basis to fulfil its legal obligations and, without delay, take up the Director General’s offer of further engagement to clarify and resolve all outstanding safeguards issues,

(g) Underscoring the Director General’s conclusion that unless and until Iran provides

technically credible explanations for the presence of uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at three undeclared locations and informs the Agency of the current location(s) of the nuclear material and/or contaminated equipment, the Agency cannot confirm the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations under its NPT Safeguards Agreement,

(h) Noting with serious concern the Director General’s conclusion that these issues stem from Iran’s obligations under the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement between Iran and the Agency and need to be resolved for the Agency be in a position to provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful,

(i) Expressing support for the Agency’s engagement with Iran to resolve the outstanding safeguards issues and sharing the Director General’s serious concern that there has been no progress towards clarifying and resolving them,

(j) Noting discussions, as referenced in the Director General’s latest report, between the

Agency and Iran in September 2022 and on 7 November 2022, and noting the Director General’s expectation that, at the technical meeting in Tehran scheduled to take place before the end of November 2022, Iran begin substantive cooperation that includes providing the Agency with “technically credible explanations on these issues, including access to locations and material, as well as the taking of samples as appropriate”,

  1. Strongly supports the Agency’s continued efforts to implement Iran’s NPT Safeguards Agreement, with the aim to provide assurance of the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme;
  2. Expresses profound concern that the safeguards issues related to three undeclared locations remain outstanding due to insufficient substantive cooperation by Iran, despite numerous interactions with the Agency since 2019;
  3. Decides it is essential and urgent in order to ensure verification of the non-diversion of nuclear material that Iran act to fulfil its legal obligations and, with a view to clarifying all outstanding safeguards issues, take the following actions without delay:

    i. Provide technically credible explanations for the presence of uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at three undeclared locations in Iran;

    ii. Inform the Agency of the current location(s) of the nuclear material and/or of the contaminated equipment;

    iii. Provide all information, documentation, and answers the Agency requires for that purpose;

    iv. Provide access to locations and material the Agency requires for that purpose, as well as for the taking of samples as deemed appropriate by the Agency;
     
  4. Notes that the provision by Iran of this information and access and the subsequent verification by the IAEA pursuant to Iran’s NPT Safeguards Agreement is essential for the Secretariat to be in position to report the issues as no longer outstanding and thereby remove the need for the Board’s consideration and action on these issues;
  5. Requests the Director General to report on the implementation of Iran’s NPT Safeguards Agreement and of this resolution for consideration by the March 2023 Board of Governors, or earlier if appropriate; and
  6. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

 

U.S. statement

The United States expresses our sincere appreciation for the continued professional and impartial efforts of the Agency to pursue the full verification assurance that Iran’s NPT-required safeguards agreement is meant to enable. We commend the Director General for his ongoing, extensive efforts to engage Iran on the reported outstanding issues regarding the presence of anthropogenic uranium particles identified at three undeclared locations in Iran – Turquzabad, Varamin, and Marivan.

We are seriously concerned by the Director General’s report that these critical safeguards issues remain unresolved. This matter should seriously concern all Board Members, as Iran continues to brazenly disregard the Director General’s repeated requests – for years now – for Iran to provide the substantive cooperation necessary to clarify and resolve these outstanding issues. In light of this lack of cooperation, and as described in the previous introduction of this resolution, the United States is joining France, Germany, and the United Kingdom in sponsoring a resolution today that would decide that specific actions required to clarify and resolve these matters are “essential and urgent,” pursuant to Article 18 of Iran’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. We welcome the strong support many Board members have already indicated for the resolution, which aims to uphold the Board’s responsibility to support the Director General and his team. We urge all Board members to join us in this effort to make clear that Iran must now provide the necessary cooperation, no more empty promises.

The proposed resolution comes after the Agency’s engagement with Iran on these issues has been ongoing for nearly four years. Unfortunately, over the course of that time, more questions have been raised than answered. Because of Iran’s failure to cooperate, the Director General has repeatedly reported that he cannot confirm the correctness or completeness of Iran’s declarations and is not able to provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful. All Board members should find these conclusions deeply troubling.

Chair,

In June of this year, the Board overwhelmingly supported the adoption of a resolution expressing profound concern that these safeguards issues remain outstanding due to insufficient substantive cooperation by Iran. In September, more than 50 Member States joined a Joint Statement voicing their concern with Iran’s lack of cooperation and calling on Iran to act on an urgent basis to fulfill its legal obligations.

And yet now, despite the Agency providing Iran with numerous opportunities, the Director General once again reports that the safeguards issues remain outstanding, and that there has been no progress in clarifying and resolving them. Instead of providing credible clarifications, or any substantive cooperation at all, Iran at the last minute offered the Agency additional meetings but provided no new substance or credible explanations. Let me be clear: this pattern of suggesting possible future cooperation, but not delivering what the Agency requires, is longstanding, transparent, and alarming. The Board should find it grossly unacceptable following the clear and repeated calls it has made on Iran to uphold its obligations and cooperate substantively without delay.

Chair,

The Director General has made clear the simple path to resolving these issues. Iran must provide credible explanations for the presence of the nuclear material particles at undeclared locations, inform the Agency of the location of the detected nuclear material and/or contaminated equipment, and provide the information and access the Agency requires to verify these explanations. We have been clear that once the Director General reports that the issues are clarified and resolved, and therefore no longer outstanding, the Board could then close its consideration of this matter. We would very much welcome such an outcome, which would be a success for Iran and for the nonproliferation regime. It is by far our preferred path forward.

The power to resolve these issues is in Iran’s hands, and we once again urge Iran to do so. There are no shortcuts here: political or otherwise. These issues – involving evidence of nuclear material at undeclared locations – are at the very heart of the safeguards regime. Iran must know that if it fails to provide the cooperation necessary to resolve these matters, the Board will have to be prepared to take further action, including under Article XII.C of the Agency’s Statute, if necessary. Contrary to Iran’s attempts to threaten and intimidate the Board by mischaracterizing our intent in pursuing this resolution, the United States would like to avoid such further action. If Iran finally provides the necessary cooperation the Director General seeks, consideration of such measures will not be necessary. The choice is Iran’s. But ignoring obligations and undercutting the international safeguards regime and its role in providing critical verification assurances is not an option.

Chair,

We greatly appreciate the Agency’s ongoing efforts with Iran and request the Director General continue his reporting on these critical matters until they are resolved. With these comments, the United States takes note of the Director General’s report on the NPT Safeguards Agreement with Iran contained in document GOV/2022/63 and requests that it be made public, consistent with longstanding practice.

 

Joint U.S., British, French, and German statement

I have the honour to speak now on behalf of France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

We would like to thank the Director General for his report on safeguards in Iran contained in GOV/2022/63. The report outlines the Agency’s continued efforts and engagement with Iran to clarify information relating to the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations under its NPT Safeguards Agreement.

We also recall the Director General’s previous reports to the Board of Governors since 2019 on Iran’s safeguards obligations, as well as the resolutions adopted by the Board on these matters contained in documents GOV/2020/34 and GOV/2022/34. The Board’s message in these resolutions was resounding and clear.

Regrettably, the Director General’s latest report once again underscores that Iran still has not provided the substantive co-operation necessary to clarify and resolve outstanding safeguards issues.

Chair,

Resolving these issues remains central to establishing the international verification assurance that Iran’s nuclear programme remains exclusively peaceful. Exercise of the Agency’s authority to provide this assurance is central to the integrity of the NPT safeguards regime. As we have said, the outstanding issues in Iran are not historical – they are integral to the necessary verification assurances that Iran’s declarations are correct and complete.

Chair,

In June of this year, the Board voted by an overwhelming majority to adopt a resolution calling on Iran to fulfill its legal obligations and engage with the IAEA to clarify and resolve all outstanding safeguards issues without delay. At the September Board meeting, 56 States joined a statement recalling that June resolution, and echoing the Director General’s concern that Iran had still not engaged with the Agency on the outstanding safeguards issues.

Unfortunately, despite the Board’s repeated calls, the Director General’s report makes clear that Iran’s lack of substantive co-operation remains serious and ongoing. The Agency has sought to clarify outstanding safeguards issues since 2019. Iran has been given ample time and opportunities to do so. Over the course of nearly four years, we have seen numerous meetings fail to produce substantive progress from Iran. Recent, last-minute promises from Iran to hold additional meetings in the future, after years of delay and denial, are late and inadequate. Iran must fulfill its safeguards obligations and provide substantive, credible explanations for the presence of uranium particles at undeclared locations.

Chair,

Given the continued lack of substantive cooperation from Iran, and with sincere regret that Iran has again made it necessary, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States jointly propose to the Board today the new resolution contained in document GOV/2022/68 to support the Secretariat’s effort to resolve these matters.

As in past resolutions, our objective is to uphold our collective responsibility as Board members to ensure that IAEA safeguards and the non-proliferation regime are implemented in a fair and objective manner in Iran and globally. We strongly believe this Board cannot and will not be intimidated by threats from Iran, or others who echo those threats, that mischaracterise the objective of the proposed resolution. The aim of the resolution is to support the Director General’s efforts to finally obtain from Iran the substantive co-operation necessary for the Agency to verify that Iran is meeting the basic undertaking of its NPT Safeguards Agreement.

Our draft submitted for the Board’s consideration has the following main points:

First, the Board would express continued, strong support for the Agency’s professional and impartial efforts in carrying out its mandate in verifying Iran’s safeguards obligations. The Director General and the Secretariat continue to have our full confidence in this regard.

Second, the Board would decide that it is essential and urgent that Iran fulfill its legal obligations and take the specific actions called for by the Director General without delay. The actions include: Iran providing technically credible explanations for the presence of particles of man-made uranium at the three undeclared locations in Iran; informing the Agency of the current locations of the nuclear material and/or contaminated equipment; and providing all information, documentation and accesses the Agency requires to clarify all outstanding safeguards issues. Article 18 of Iran’s NPT Safeguards Agreement authorises the Board to take this step to ensure verification of the non-diversion of nuclear material. We hope Iran that would appreciate the seriousness of this decision and provide at the planned meeting later this month with the IAEA the substantive cooperation required; Iran should not miss the opportunity that meeting presents to make good on that long-awaited co-operation.

Receiving and verifying technically credible explanations from Iran, including by granting all access requested by the IAEA for this purpose, remains essential for the Agency to report that the issues are no longer outstanding, and for the Agency to be in a position to provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear program remains exclusively peaceful.

For the avoidance of doubt about the ultimate outcome we seek, we want to be clear. Once Iran provides the necessary substantive co-operation, and when the IAEA Director General reports that these issues have been duly addressed and are no longer outstanding, we will support removing the need for the Board’s consideration of these issues, including the request for the Director General to report on them. We would very much welcome Iran taking the opportunity before it to bring such an outcome to fruition. Reaching that outcome would be a significant success for Iran, the IAEA, and the global nuclear non-proliferation regime. Until that point, the Board should request the Director General to report on the implementation of Iran’s NPT Safeguards Agreement and of this resolution at the earliest appropriate date before the March Board of Governors.

Chair,

As in the past, Iran has argued that any Board action under this item may undermine our efforts to restore the JCPOA. It is Iran that has undermined these efforts by seeking to politicise its safeguards obligations, and so the Board can support diplomacy by underscoring its absolute support for the Agency in carrying out its vital mandate.

Chair,

Our delegations have engaged broadly with Board members to explain our thinking, solicit their feedback, and listen to their views on these matters. We thank the overwhelming majority that has already indicated support for this resolution, and would welcome the text being made public, should it be adopted. Thank you.

 

Joint Britain, French, and German statement

Chair,

On behalf of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, I thank Director General Grossi for his latest report contained in GOV/2022/62, and Deputy Director General Aparo for his Technical Briefing. Once again, we commend the Agency for carrying out its mandate conferred by the United Nations Security Council - even given Iranian non-adherence with its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The E3 thank the Agency for its objective reporting of Iran’s activities with regards to these commitments and encourage the Director General to keep the Board informed regarding the Iranian nuclear programme in all its aspects. We would welcome the Agency’s last quarterly report on monitoring and verification in Iran to be made public.

The Director General very clearly reports that Iran is moving further and further away from its commitments agreed upon in 2015.

  • today, Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile exceeds JCPoA limits by 18 times and comprises very concerning amounts of uranium enriched up to 5, 20 and 60 percent
  • since the Director General`s last report as of September this year, Iran has increased its stockpile of uranium enriched up to 20 percent by 16 percent and its stockpile of uranium enriched up to 60 percent by 12 percent
  • there is no credible civilian justification for these activities which are inconsistent with Iran’s JCPoA commitments for both enrichment levels and quantities of enriched material

This situation will only worsen in the near future if Iran does not decide to return to full compliance with its commitments under the JCPoA. Iran has also drastically increased production of uranium enriched up to 5 percent, enabling Iran to produce even more HEU in the future. In his report, the Director General notes Iran has rapidly increased its enrichment capabilities through the testing and installation of additional IR-1 centrifuges as well as of advanced centrifuges. For example,

  • at the underground location in Natanz, Iran has significantly increased the number of centrifuges producing uranium enriched up to 5 percent
  • more than half of Iran`s advanced centrifuges at Natanz have been installed since the beginning of this year
  • Iran’s knowledge gains from the operation of advanced centrifuges are irreversible

In addition, the Director General once again emphasised in his report that Iran’s decision to stop cooperating with the Agency with regards to monitoring and verification activities agreed in the JCPoA has seriously affected the Agency’s knowledge of Iran’s nuclear programme. Iran’s decision to remove Agency surveillance and monitoring equipment has, as the Director General says, detrimental implications for the Agency’s ability to provide assurance of the peaceful nature of Iran`s nuclear programme.

Chair,

These steps present a very clear picture: Iran continues its unprecedented nuclear escalation. This raises serious doubts as to the nature of Iran’s nuclear programme, which threatens regional and international security.

The E3, along with our partners, have done our utmost to negotiate a return to a reasonably restricted Iranian nuclear programme. After many months of negotiations, the JCPoA Coordinator tabled viable deals in March and again in August this year which would have returned Iran to full compliance with its JCPoA commitments and returned the US to the deal. Iran refused these packages with continued demands beyond the scope of the JCPoA, despite further efforts over the summer.

Chair,

The situation we are in is very dangerous. We urge Iran to immediately stop and reverse its nuclear escalation, allow for complete transparency with the IAEA by returning to full cooperation, and re-applying the Additional Protocol, as an important confidence-building step. We also recall that, under its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, Iran is legally obliged to implement Modified Code 3.1. and, according to international law, Iran cannot change its application or withdraw from it unilaterally.

Chair,

We will continue consultations, alongside international partners, on how best to address Iran’s unabated and dangerous nuclear escalation. Thank you.

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