February 25, 2021 | Institute for Science and International Security

The IAEA’s Latest Iran NPT Safeguards Report: Tehran Continues to Stonewall Inspectors

February 25, 2021 | Institute for Science and International Security

The IAEA’s Latest Iran NPT Safeguards Report: Tehran Continues to Stonewall Inspectors

Excerpt

This analysis summarizes and assesses information in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA’s) periodic safeguards report, NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the most recent of which was issued on February 23, 2021. The IAEA report itself represents a thorough overview of the IAEA’s investigation in Iran since 2018 and Tehran’s continued stonewalling of IAEA requests for explanations and clarifications about undeclared nuclear material and activities. The IAEA calls on Iran to “clarify and resolve these issues without further delay.”

Key Findings and Recommendations:

  • The report’s major finding is that there has been “lack of progress in clarifying the safeguards issues” related to the agency’s investigation into undeclared nuclear material and activities at four locations in Iran.
  • The IAEA reports that it detected “anthropogenic uranium particles” at two undeclared sites in Iran. Iran has not provided credible technical explanations to the agency to account for the presence of the particles. In January 2020, the IAEA first requested access to the sites, one called the Tehran site, and the other called Marivan, but Iran refused. Under international pressure, Iran finally acquiesced and the IAEA visited and took samples in August and September 2020.
  • The IAEA reports that “after 18 months, Iran has not provided the necessary, full and technically credible explanation for the presence of nuclear material particles” that the agency detected in February 2019 at a warehouse location in Iran, commonly referred to as Turquz-Abad.
  • Iran has not explained to the IAEA where nuclear material in the form of a metal disc is now located, which allegedly relates to Iran’s early efforts to develop a uranium deuteride neutron initiator for nuclear weapons at the undeclared Lavisan-Shian site.
  • Iran’s decision to stop implementing the Additional Protocol (AP) to its comprehensive safeguards agreement (CSA) on February 23, 2021 does not free Iran from its legal requirements to answer the IAEA’s questions and provide access to requested sites. Any attempt by Iran to use its recent actions to reduce IAEA monitoring and refuse answering the IAEA’s questions or hinder verification activities at undeclared locations should be severely condemned as a violation of its comprehensive safeguards agreement, which Iran pledged to continue to implement “fully and without limitation.”
  • The IAEA correctly points out in its report that it seeks answers relating to the “correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations,” the traditional manner of dealing with the possibility of undeclared materials and activities under the CSA. As a NPT state party that implements a CSA, Iran is required to answer the IAEA’s questions about undeclared nuclear material and activities, with or without an AP in force. Thus, the IAEA is empowered to continue requesting access to undeclared locations if its concerns pertain to potentially undeclared nuclear material and activities, and if necessary, request special inspections, a CSA provision that enables IAEA access to non-declared sites in a country, including both military and civilian sites.
  • Iran notified the IAEA that it will no longer implement the CSA’s Modified Code 3.1, which requires Iran to provide the IAEA with notification as a decision is taken to construct a nuclear facility and related design information, rather than much closer to the facility’s date of operation with nuclear material. Iran has claimed this code is a voluntary JCPOA commitment, but the IAEA has reminded Iran that implementation of Modified Code 3.1 is a legal CSA obligation – not a voluntary measure – and “cannot be modified unilaterally.” In the past, Iran has unilaterally suspended its implementation of Modified Code 3.1, in violation of its safeguards agreement. The IAEA noted that this would be a violation of Iran’s CSA.
  • Iran’s continued refusal to cooperate with the agency on these matters, combined with its steady and provocative nuclear advances and rhetoric over the past months, call for more IAEA oversight, not less. Iran’s actions and refusal to explain undeclared nuclear material and activities underscore that the international community has diminishing confidence that its nuclear program is devoted strictly to peaceful uses.
  • At its meeting from March 1-5, 2021, the IAEA Board of Governors should pass a resolution demanding Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA’s outstanding questions and concerns with a firm deadline. If Iran continues to deny cooperation, the Board should vote to refer the matter to the UN Security Council.

Andrea Stricker is a research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). Follow Andrea on Twitter @StrickerNonpro. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focused on national security and foreign policy.

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International Organizations Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Missiles