Image credit: IAEA - Photo: 2020

Iran Should Demonstrate That Its Nuclear Program Is Peaceful

By Kelsey Davenport and Julia Masterson

This article first appeared on Arms Control Association Website. Kelsey Davenport is director for nonproliferation policy, and Julia Masterson research assistant

WASHINGTON, DC (IDN) – International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi raised concerns earlier in March about Tehran’s failure to cooperate with an agency investigation into possible storage and use of undeclared nuclear materials at three locations in Iran.

In a March 3 report to the agency’s Board of Governors, Grossi outlined the agency’s efforts since January 2019 to request information from Iran about activities at the sites and documented Tehran’s refusal to cooperate with the agency’s investigation. Iran also refused the IAEA’s request in January 2020 to visit two of the locations and take environmental samples.

In his March 9 remarks to the agency’s Board, Grossi said that Iran “has not provided access to these locations and has not engaged in substantive discussions to clarify the Agency’s questions” and he called on Tehran to “cooperate immediately and fully” with IAEA efforts.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi said March 11 that the agency’s allegations are based on false reports from countries hostile to Iran. “Any absurd claim made by any regime or individual should not be the basis of the agency’s questions,” he said.

Mousavi may have been referring to the documents that Israel stole from Iran in 2018 and provided to the IAEA. The March 3 IAEA report did not specifically reference materials provided by any state but noted that “all safeguards-relevant information available to the Agency related to Iran is subject to an extensive and rigorous corroboration process”.

Based on the limited information released by the agency, it appears that the sites in question may have been used to store nuclear materials and/or information related to Iran’s past nuclear weapons program, which largely ended in 2003 according to IAEA and U.S. assessments.

The report does not appear to allege that the sites are connected to recent or ongoing illicit nuclear activities. While the storage of information and materials from Iran’s abandoned nuclear weapons program would not constitute an immediate risk, it could be a violation of Iran’s safeguards agreement and additional protocol, so Iran’s decision not to comply with the IAEA’s investigation is very troubling.

Every non-nuclear weapon state party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is required to implement a safeguards agreement with the IAEA to provide assurance that its nuclear activities are entirely peaceful. As part of the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran is also voluntarily adhering to an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement, which, amongst other things, provides the IAEA with more information about a country’s nuclear activities, expands the agency’s access to sites, and increases the option to use environmental sampling to test for the presence of nuclear materials.

In addition to dismissing the agency’s request as baseless, Tehran said in a January 28 letter to the IAEA that it “does not consider itself obliged to respond to such allegations” because of its implementation of paragraph 14 of the 2015 nuclear deal. Paragraph 14 outlines the process for the IAEA and Iran to address what was known as the agency’s investigation into the “possible military dimensions” (PMDs) of the country’s nuclear program. The JCPOA required Iran to cooperate with the IAEA’s investigation—known as the roadmap—before sanctions relief would be granted.

The IAEA published a report detailing Iran’s activities relevant to nuclear weapons work in December 2015. That report concluded that Iran had an organized nuclear weapons program before 2003 and that some activities continued through 2009, but that there was no evidence of nuclear weapons-related activities since that point or “credible indication of the diversion of nuclear material” in connection with the military dimensions of the nuclear program.

While the December 2015 report did close the PMD investigation, the IAEA is still charged with determining if there are undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran and Tehran is obligated to cooperate—irrespective of the PMD investigation being completed.

It behoves Iran to work with the IAEA to resolve this issue and demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful. Refusing to cooperate increases speculation that Iran is conducting illicit nuclear activities and risks undermining the international safeguards regime.

U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA Jackie Wolcott told the agency’s Board March 11 that the IAEA’s report raises “very serious concerns regarding Iran’s compliance with its safeguards obligations” and said that the Board may need to escalate the issue if it is not resolved.

For a deeper analysis of the IAEA report, see: The IAEA’s March Reports on Iran’s Nuclear Activities Raise Questions. [IDN-InDepthNews – 19 March 2020]

Image credit: IAEA

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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