June 2, 2022 | Institute for Science and International Security

The IAEA’s Iran NPT Safeguards Report – May 2022

June 2, 2022 | Institute for Science and International Security

The IAEA’s Iran NPT Safeguards Report – May 2022


“Unless and until Iran provides technically credible explanations…the Agency cannot confirm the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations under its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement.” -International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael M. Grossi

This analysis summarizes and assesses information in the latest 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 May 30, 2022. It also provides background information on the former Iranian nuclear weapon sites under IAEA investigation.

For nearly four years, the IAEA has been investigating the presence of man-made uranium particles at three Iranian sites and, up until its last report, was seeking information about nuclear material and activities at a fourth site. For the first time since the IAEA began its investigation, it uses the actual names of the four sites – Turquz Abad, Varamin, Marivan, and Lavisan-Shian – rather than referring to them as Locations 1-4.

On March 5, 2022, the IAEA and Iran agreed to a timetable for Iran to provide the agency with information and explanations to clarify the IAEA’s discovery of man-made uranium particles at three sites. Under its legal nonproliferation obligations, Iran is bound to explain the activities that led to the use or production of this nuclear material. The IAEA notes that “it has provided Iran with numerous opportunities, in different formats through exchanges and meetings in Vienna and Tehran” to explain the findings, but to no avail.

In a stunning indictment of Iranian non-compliance with the NPT safeguards agreement, the IAEA’s report states, “Iran has not provided explanations that are technically credible in relation to the Agency’s findings at those locations. Nor has Iran informed the Agency of the current location(s) of the nuclear material and/or of the equipment contaminated with nuclear material, that was moved from Turquzabad in 2018. In addition, nuclear activities and nuclear material used therein at Lavisan-Shian were not declared by Iran to the Agency as required under Iran’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement.”

The IAEA, in essence, reports that Iran is in breach of the NPT and will remain so until it cooperates: “Until and unless Iran provides technically credible explanations for the presence of uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at Turquzabad, Varamin and ‘Marivan’ and informs the Agency of the current location(s) of the nuclear material and/or of the contaminated equipment, the Agency cannot confirm the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations under its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement.”

The matter now moves to the IAEA’s 35-member Board of Governors, which next convenes from June 6 to 10. It is the duty of member states to officially determine Iran’s non-compliance with its safeguards agreement and pass a censure resolution demanding Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA. Since June 2020, the board has not passed a new resolution demanding Iran’s cooperation and compliance, even in the face of ongoing, threatening nuclear advances by Tehran. If member states do not act, the international community will send a signal to Iran, as well as other would-be proliferant states, that it will tolerate NPT violations. This will undermine the IAEA’s authority, lead to the NPT’s degradation, and other states seeking nuclear weapons.

IAEA/Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Joint Statement

On March 5, following a visit by IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi to Tehran, the IAEA and the AEOI released a Joint Statement to “accelerate and strengthen their cooperation and dialogue aimed at the resolution of [outstanding] issues.” The agreement aimed to resolve by the June 2022 board meeting the IAEA’s remaining questions about three undeclared Iranian sites where it found man-made uranium in 2019 and 2020. In a marked difference from the workplan leading up to the implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement did not commit the IAEA to “close” its investigation or satisfy itself with a series of joint meetings and false Iranian statements or declarations.

The IAEA reports that pursuant to the agreed timeline, Iran provided information to the agency on March 19 described as “predominantly information that Iran had previously provided to the Agency but also included new information, which was subsequently assessed by the Agency. The information provided by Iran did not address all of the Agency’s questions.” The IAEA submitted additional questions to Iran on April 4. The IAEA and Iran met in Tehran on April 12, May 7, and May 17. During the last meeting, “Iran provided separate videos and presentations expanding on its explanations related to Locations 1, 3 and 4.” Still, the IAEA found the explanations to be not technically credible.

At the same time, talks between Iran and the United States, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, and China (collectively, the P5+1) – aimed at reviving the JCPOA – are reportedly stalled. Regardless of the outcome of negotiations, the P5+1 should require the resolution of the safeguards issues prior to the implementation of any new deal.

Mr. Grossi has warned on a few occasions that, “if clarification of very important safeguards issues were to fail,” it would be “difficult to imagine” the deal’s implementation going forward. Grossi should be credited for his constant pushback on a possible political resolution of the safeguards issues. He has stated, for example, “The safeguards issues will not be resolved politically because I will not go for that.”

The IAEA/Iran joint statement denied Iran the opportunity to simply “check the boxes” of a scheme without honest cooperation. As Grossi put it, “There is no artificial deadline [for concluding the investigation], there is no predefined outcome, there is no predefined name for what I am going to do.” IAEA member states must support Grossi’s quest for answers.

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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