April 17, 2024 | Flash Brief

Iran Briefly Closed Nuclear Facilities to IAEA Inspectors

April 17, 2024 | Flash Brief

Iran Briefly Closed Nuclear Facilities to IAEA Inspectors

Latest Developments

The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog said on April 15 that Iran briefly closed its nuclear facilities to inspectors the day before amid security concerns about possible Israeli retaliation over the regime’s weekend attack. Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reported that Tehran permitted inspectors to re-enter on April 15, but Grossi directed his team to resume work on April 16 out of an abundance of caution.

Expert Analysis

“Iran may learn lessons for a future effort to close its nuclear facilities to inspectors on a pretext of security concerns, all while it enriches uranium to weapons-grade or diverts the material to a secret site. Indeed, the nightmare scenarios experts have worried about for years seem more possible given Tehran’s current penchant for risk-taking.” — Andrea Stricker, FDD Research Fellow and Deputy Director of FDD’s Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program

“Going forward, we need to make sure we are learning about any halt to UN inspections in real-time to prevent Iran from creating false pretexts to deny access.” — Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

IAEA Concerns

In New York to brief the UN Security Council, Director General Grossi told reporters that Iran’s temporary closure of nuclear facilities had not “had an impact on our inspection activity, but we always call for extreme restraint.” Grossi acknowledged the prospect that inspectors could be bystanders in an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. “We are always concerned about that possibility,” he said. It is unlikely, however, that Israel would knowingly strike Tehran’s nuclear sites while inspectors are present.

Possible Rehearsal for Breakout

The closure of Iran’s facilities raises concern that it could be rehearsing a possible breakout from the regime’s nuclear nonproliferation obligations. Tehran could use a security pretext to delay or prevent inspector access while it enriches uranium to weapons-grade or diverts material to a secret site.

Iran’s shortening “breakout time” — the amount of time the regime needs to enrich enough weapons-grade uranium (WGU) for a first atomic bomb — leaves very little time for America, Israel, and European partners to act and prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. Iran’s breakout time has dropped to just seven days to produce enough WGU for a first weapon and five months to produce material for an additional 12 weapons, with additional months needed to fabricate an atomic device.  

What to Know About Iran’s Nuclear Program: Breakout Time,” FDD Visual

Why Israel’s Failure to Strike Back at Iran Could Lead to Nuclear War,” by Mark Dubowitz and Jacob Nagel

Washington Fails — Again — to Gauge Iran’s Nuclear Threat,” by Andrea Stricker and Behnam Ben Taleblu


International Organizations Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Nuclear Nonproliferation