IAEA Board of Governors Censures Iran

On June 5, 2024, the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s 35-member board of governors censured Iran for failing to cooperate with the agency. Britain, France and Germany sponsored the resolution, which was also backed by the United States. The vote was 20 in favor, 12 abstentions and two against. Russia and China, which have veto power at the U.N. Security Council, were the only no votes.

The non-binding resolution reflected mounting frustration among Western powers with Iran’s stonewalling of a long-running International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation. It called on Iran to explain traces of uranium at undeclared sites. The probe, which dates back to 2018, initially covered three locations. Questions about two, Turquzabad and Varamin, remained outstanding as of June 2024. The suspicious activity took place before 2003, when Iran halted its nuclear weapons program. The resolution also called on Tehran to lift its ban on several experienced IAEA inspectors.

IAEA Director General Grossi

In a joint statement, Britain, France and Germany said that the resolution responded to “Iran’s persistent refusal to cooperate in good faith with the IAEA to clarify outstanding issues.” They urged Tehran to provide “technically credible explanations” for the undeclared nuclear material.

In a separate statement, the United States expressed similar concerns. Ambassador Laura S.H. Holgate also highlighted provocative remarks by Iranian officials who have bragged that Tehran could quickly build nuclear weapons if it made the political decision to do so. “Tehran’s recent statements should not be dismissed as mere bluster,” she warned. “Iran, a country with a past nuclear weapons program and whose enrichment program started in secret, is amassing a growing stockpile of highly enriched uranium, and now boasts of being on the precipice of nuclear weapons capability despite its NPT (Nonproliferation Treaty) obligations.”

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi also criticized the rhetoric from Tehran. “It's unacceptable to talk about nuclear weapons, as some people do in Iran,” he said at the opening of the board of governors meeting on June 3. 

The board of governors last rebuked Iran for not cooperating with the investigation in November 2022. That resolution– drafted by the United States, Britain, France and Germany – passed 26 to 2, with five abstentions and two countries absent. Russia and China opposed it. Tehran responded by ramping up enrichment of uranium to 60 percent – a technical step away from the 90 percent purity needed to fuel nuclear weapons – at Fordow. Iran had already been enriching to 60 percent at Natanz since April 2021, but the expansion to Fordow was bigger proliferation risk because that site is buried deep underneath a mountain and would be difficult to attack.

Before the vote, Iran had condemned the draft resolution in a joint statement with seven allies – China, Russia, Belarus, Nicaragua, Syria, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. They alleged that the resolution was politically motivated and would be another “mistake and miscalculation, inevitably leading to confrontation.” They also said that tabling a resolution less than a month after the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash on May 19 went “beyond possible norms of diplomatic practice and etiquette.”  

In a separate statement, Iran’s foreign ministry said that the move was a “continuation of previously failed policies of some Western governments as well as a bid to politically abuse international mechanisms against independent nations.”

Tensions between Iran and the IAEA have been building for several years. In May 2018, President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Iran began breaching the deal’s limits in July 2019. The initial advances were incremental and calibrated, but the pace increased after Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the father of Iran’s nuclear program, was assassinated in November 2020. Parliament passed a law that called for the suspension of inspections required under the Additional Protocol, which expands IAEA access to Iranian facilities, and other limits under the 2015 nuclear. In 2021, the Biden administration launched new diplomacy to restore both Iranian and U.S. compliance with the JCPOA, but Iran ultimately rejected a draft deal in 2022. 

By May 2024, Iran had enough 60-percent enriched uranium to fuel three nuclear weapons if it further enriched that stockpile to 90 percent purity. Iran had also produced far more sophisticated centrifuges capable of enriching uranium more efficiently. Tehran also blocked IAEA monitoring of key sites, including its centrifuge production plant. At the June board of governors meeting, Director General Grossi warned that the increasing knowledge gap was "making it very difficult to go back to diplomacy." The following is the text of the new resolution and statements from the United States, European powers, and Iran. 


IAEA Board of Governors Resolution

NPT Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran

The Board of Governors,

(a) Commending the continued professional, independent and impartial efforts of the IAEA Director General and the Secretariat, including its inspectors, 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/2024/29 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) Noting Iran’s continued failure to implement modified Code 3.1, contrary to its legal obligations, and failure to provide the Agency with required design and preliminary design information regarding new nuclear facilities,

(f) Noting the Director General’s conclusion that the corrected nuclear material accounting reports provided by Iran regarding the discrepancy in the nuclear material balance at UCF indicates that the amount of uranium contained in the solid waste sent from JHL to UCF for dissolution was less than had been declared by Iran in 2003–2004, and that this new issue requires further consideration by the Agency

(g) Recalling that it has been four years since 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,

(h) 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,

(i) Recalling the Board of Governors’ resolution of 17 November 2022 contained in

GOV/2022/70 which decided that it is essential and urgent in order to ensure verification of the non-diversion of nuclear material that Iran acts to fulfil its legal obligations and, with a view to clarifying all outstanding issues, take without delay all actions specified in the resolution,

(j) Noting that despite the above resolutions and many opportunities provided by the Director General over a number of years, Iran has neither provided the Agency with technically credible explanations for the presence of uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at several undeclared locations in Iran nor informed the Agency of the current location(s) of nuclear material and/or of contaminated equipment, and that in the absence of any technically credible explanations from Iran, the Agency has not changed its assessment of the undeclared nuclear-related activities at these locations nor of the origin of the uranium particles of anthropogenic origin;

(k) 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 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,

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

(m) Noting also the Director General’s assessment that the withdrawal by Iran of the

designation of several experienced Agency inspectors was exercised in a manner that directly and severely affects the Agency’s ability to conduct its verification activities in Iran,

(n) Supporting the Director General’s ongoing efforts to obtain progress from Iran on resolving outstanding safeguards issues and improving cooperation with the Agency, including through the implementation of the Joint statement between the IAEA and Iran of 4 March 2023, recalling that both sides recognised that such engagements could pave the way for wider agreements among parties,

(o) Recalling the Director General’s readiness to follow up with the new government of Iran and his call for, and disposition to continue with, the high-level dialogue and ensuing technical exchanges commenced as a result of the meetings with high level officials of the Iranian government in early May, in order to make swift and concrete progress towards addressing all outstanding safeguards issues,

(p) Noting the recent public statements made in Iran during this reporting period regarding its technical capabilities to produce nuclear weapons and possible changes to Iran’s nuclear doctrine, which only increase the Director General’s concerns about the correctness and completeness of Iran’s safeguards declarations,

  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. Calls on Iran to provide sufficient cooperation with the Agency and take the essential and urgent actions as decided by the Board in its November 2022 resolution, to resolve safeguards issues which remain outstanding despite numerous interactions with the Agency since 2019;
  3. Calls on Iran to implement without delay the Joint Statement between the IAEA and Iran of 4 March 2023 and in particular their safeguards elements;
  4. Calls on Iran to reverse its withdrawal of the designations of several experienced Agency inspectors which is essential to fully allow the Agency to conduct its verification activities in Iran effectively;
  5. Calls on Iran to implement the modified Code 3.1, which is a legal obligation for Iran as set out in Article 39 of the Safeguards Agreement and in the Subsidiary Arrangements to its NPT Safeguards Agreement, and which therefore cannot be modified or suspended unilaterally, including by providing all necessary design and preliminary design information to the Agency;
  6. Reaffirms its decision that it is essential and urgent in order to ensure verification of the nondiversion of nuclear material that Iran act to fulfil its legal obligations and, with a view to clarifying all outstanding safeguards issues, reiterates its call on Iran to take the following actions without delay:

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

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

  7. Underlines 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;
  8. Considers that a continued failure by Iran to provide the necessary, full and unambiguous cooperation with the Agency to resolve all outstanding safeguards issues, may necessitate the production, by the Director General, of a comprehensive and updated assessment on the possible presence or use of undeclared nuclear material in connection with past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program, based on the information available; and
  9. Decides to remain seized of the matter.


U.S. Statement by Ambassador Laura S.H. Holgate

“The United States once again expresses its appreciation for the professional and impartial efforts of the Director General and the Secretariat to engage Iran on the serious, outstanding issues related to the implementation of Iran’s NPT-required safeguards agreement.

“We appreciate the Director General’s detailed reporting on these critical issues, which is essential to the international community’s understanding of the nature of Iran’s nuclear program and the serious shortcomings in Iran’s cooperation with the Agency to date.

“I would like to focus my time on why Iran’s nuclear program poses such a serious challenge to international security and our vision for responding to that challenge.

There are at least three attributes of Iran’s current approach that are highly problematic.

First, Iran has thus far failed to provide the legally required cooperation necessary to resolve long outstanding safeguards issues involving evidence of nuclear material at undeclared locations.  Iran’s lack of cooperation continues despite the resolutions adopted by the Board in recent years, including the Board’s decision almost two years ago that it is essential and urgent that Iran act to fulfill its legal obligations and provide the specified cooperation without delay.  Regrettably, due to Iran’s continued obfuscations and denials, the IAEA does not currently have the confidence needed to assess that Iran’s declarations are correct and complete.

“Second, there is a deeply troubling and steady drumbeat of recent statements from senior Iranian officials threatening that Iran may reconsider its stated nuclear doctrine and asserting that Iran has all the technical capabilities needed to quickly to build nuclear weapons should it decide to do so.

“Finally, a third concerning attribute of Iran’s nuclear program is that Iran has repeatedly responded to the resolutions adopted by this Board in recent years with escalation instead of cooperation, including by producing 60 percent enriched uranium at its heavily fortified, underground facility at Fordow.  As the Director General has stated, Iran is the only country that does not have a nuclear weapon that is enriching to this level.

“Tehran’s recent statements should not be dismissed as mere bluster.  Iran, a country with a past nuclear weapons program and whose enrichment program started in secret, is amassing a growing stockpile of highly enriched uranium, and now boasts of being on the precipice of nuclear weapons capability despite its NPT obligations.

“Moreover, the Director General has also reported that the IAEA has lost its previous visibility into Iran’s production of centrifuge components, and that Iran refuses to provide design information for planned new nuclear facilities as legally required under modified Code 3.1 of its safeguards agreement.  The IAEA’s lack of knowledge about the number and whereabouts of Iran’s centrifuge components and Iran’s unwillingness to meet its obligation to report planned nuclear facilities to the IAEA are all the more worrisome when one recalls that Iran built its enrichment facilities at Fordow and Natanz in secret."

“The Director General also now reports new questions concerning a nuclear material discrepancy related to Iran’s work involving uranium metal in the 1995-2000 timeframe that cannot be explained by measurement error.

“Now I would like to turn to the current resolution tabled for adoption by the Governments of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.  Given Iran’s lack of cooperation with the IAEA and our commitment to collective action in support of the Agency and the NPT, the United States supports this resolution.  But, make no mistake, it is important that resolutions be tied to a broader strategy.

“This resolution should be a first step in a strategy aimed at achieving a sustainable, effective solution to Iran’s nuclear program that includes full cooperation with the IAEA, especially as we look ahead to October 2025, when the UN Security Council could close consideration of Iran’s nuclear issue under Security Council Resolution 2231.  This will be a natural inflection point for the international community’s quest to make certain that Iran’s program remains exclusively peaceful.

“As we approach this inflection point and absent Iran’s full cooperation with the IAEA, the United States believes the Board of Governors and the broader international community would benefit from a comprehensive report describing all remaining safeguards concerns in Iran stemming from the undeclared locations, as well as the technical concerns the IAEA sees that give rise to the Director General’s requests for the measures he has been pursuing via implementation of the March 2023 Joint Statement.

The content of any report remains in Iran’s hands.  If Iran cooperates as the IAEA requests, we would look forward to that cooperation being reflected in the Director General’s reporting toward resolving these long outstanding matters.  In this regard, we once again urge Iran to fully implement the pledges it made in the March 2023 IAEA-Iran Joint Statement.

“Finally, we note the Director General’s report that Iran allowed certain cameras to be serviced and downblended a small quantity of the additional 60 percent enriched uranium Iran produced since March.  However, if Iran wishes to demonstrate its cooperation and good faith, it must go well beyond these measured steps, step back from its provocative nuclear activities, and finally deliver the full cooperation required by its safeguards obligations.  We underscore that the opportunity for Iran to choose a different path from the one it has taken remains open.”


E3 (Britain, France and Germany) Statement

“We, the Governments of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, welcome the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors’ adoption of a resolution on Iran this afternoon. The resolution responds to Iran’s persistent refusal to cooperate in good faith with the IAEA to clarify outstanding issues relating to undeclared nuclear material detected at multiple locations in Iran. Iran is legally obligated under its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Safeguards Agreement to cooperate with the IAEA and account for all nuclear material and activities.

“18 months ago, the IAEA Board stated that it was essential and urgent for Iran to act without delay to fulfil its NPT-required safeguards obligations to ensure the IAEA is able to verify that no nuclear material is diverted. Since then, Iran has consistently failed to meaningfully cooperate with the Agency, further restricted Agency access by de-designating experienced inspectors, and accumulated provocative statements on its technical capability to build nuclear weapons that are contrary to Iran’s NPT obligations. Despite the repeated efforts by the IAEA Director General to engage in a substantial dialogue with Iran, Iran has made no progress to resolve the issues.

“With this new resolution, the IAEA Board sends a strong and renewed message of support for the IAEA and its Director-General’s relentless efforts to address the issue. The Board will not sit idly by when Iran challenges the foundations of the non-proliferation system and undermines the credibility of the international safeguards regime. Iran must cooperate with the Agency and provide technically credible explanations which satisfy the Agency’s questions. This resolution supports the Agency to pursue its dialogue with Iran to clarify all outstanding safeguards issues, while setting the stage for further steps to hold Iran to account if it fails to make concrete progress.

“If Iran meaningfully cooperates with the Agency, and the Director General is able to report that the unresolved safeguards issues are no longer outstanding, the Board could then close its consideration of this matter.  We hope Iran takes this opportunity to resolve these outstanding matters so that no further Board action is necessary.”


Joint Statement by Republic of Belarus, People's Republic of China, Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Nicaragua, Russian Federation, Syrian Arab Republic, Republic of Zimbabwe, and Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

"We would like to express our deep condolence to Iran's loss of President Ebrahim Raisi and
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in the tragic helicopter crash on 20th May and our great
sympathy to the Iranian government and the Iranian people.

"We would like to use this opportunity to share our views on the draft resolution <<NPT
Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran>> tabled by France, Germany and UK.

"Tabling a resolution against a country that has recently came out of the official mourning period
because of the tragic passing of its President and Foreign Minister goes beyond possible norms of
diplomatic practice and etiquette. Provoking political confrontation in such a special and sensitive context
is clearly not constructive for the international efforts to address the Iranian nuclear issue.

"We recall Iran's long-standing commitment to nuclear non-proliferation as the state party to the NPT. We welcome Iran's continued engagement with the Agency on outstanding safeguards issues and highly appreciate Director General Grossi's visit to Iran last month, as well as the positive momentums for the further dialogues and cooperation. During DG's recent visit to Iran last month, the two sides agreed to maintain communication on continuing the implementation of the Joint Statement of March 2023 and are about to discuss further cooperation. At such a time, France, Germany and UK are bent on advancing the draft resolution would only be counterproductive.

"Co-authors of the draft used every single pretext against Iran in an attempt to micromanage things that are supposed to be resolved in the routine mutual cooperation between the LAEA Secretariat and Iran. This draft resolution is aimed to abuse a temporary break in the cooperation between Iran and the LAEA, ignoring recent interactions between the Director General and Iranian authorities. This draft resolution also creates a very bad precedent for the system of the IAEA safeguards. 

"We wish to emphasize that the current priority for the Board is to strongly encourage and support the Agency and Iran in their engagement and pushing the Iranian nuclear issue back to the right track through constructive dialogue and cooperation. Facts have time and again prove that confrontation and pressure are not conducive to resolve difference. Rather, they risk deteriorating cooperation between the Agency and Iran and further complicating the issue. 

"Unconstructive and confrontational approach selected by the co-authors of the resolution sends a clear signal to the international community, that having a simple majority is enough to impose and abuse the decision-making process at the Board of Governors. This draft resolution, if adopted, would be another mistake and miscalculation, inevitably leading to confrontation. 

"We urge relevant parties to abandon their political move, carefully consider the future of the Iranian nuclear issue in a rational and responsible manner. Resolving the Iranian nuclear issue requires providing both the Secretariat and Iran with the necessary time and space to take further constructive efforts, thereby fostering a positive atmosphere conducive to political dialogue and substantive cooperation. We call upon all Member States to play a constructive role and resist any attempt to politicize the safeguards issues. We should support cooperation rather than confrontation. In this regard, we call upon Member States not to support this resolution. It would be appreciated if this Statement is published as an INFCIRC.
Thank you, Mr. Chair."


Iranian Foreign Ministry statement

"The Iranian Foreign Ministry has strongly condemned a move by a few countries to get a resolution approved at the meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s board of governors.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran views the proposal and approval of this resolution as a politically-motivated and unconstructive move and the continuation of previously failed policies of some Western governments as well as a bid to politically abuse international mechanisms against independent nations.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is committed to continuing its technical cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency in line with its legal and international obligations based on the Non-proliferation Treaty and the safeguards agreement.

"The issuance of the resolution will have no effect on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s resolve to press ahead with its peaceful nuclear program and to implement its nuclear development plans in line with its rights under related international treaties."


Photo Credit: IAEA Image Bank via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)