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IAEA Reports Delay in Iran Probe
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By Kelsey Davenport

Iran provided the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with access to several nuclear facilities in August, but is behind schedule on turning over information on alleged activities related to nuclear weapons development, according to the agency’s director-general. 

Yukiya Amano told the IAEA Board of Governors on Sept. 15 that Iran expressed a willingness to “accelerate the resolution of all outstanding issues” and has begun discussions with the agency about the two remaining actions of the five that Tehran agreed to complete by Aug. 25. 

Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Reza Najafi, said on Sept. 18 that the actions have not been completed “due to their complexity” and because the IAEA allegations are based on invalid information. Najafi said that the IAEA characterization that Iran had “missed the deadline” of Aug. 25 is inaccurate because the agency was aware Iran might not complete the actions by that date. 

On May 21, Tehran pledged to provide the agency with information in five areas of concern to the IAEA. (See ACT, June 2014.) These actions are part of a November 2013 agreement, the Framework for Cooperation, in which Iran and the IAEA committed to “resolve all present and past issues,” including allegations of activities with possible relevance for developing nuclear weapons, or “possible military dimensions,” as the agency refers to them. (See ACT, December 2013.) 

The IAEA laid out its concerns about possible weaponization activities in detail in its November 2011 report to its board, but did not hand over its evidence to Iran. (See ACT, December 2011.) 

Iran maintains that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful. Najafi said Iran denies the allegations of weaponization activities and that there are no “authenticated documents” to back up the IAEA allegations. Nevertheless, Iran will continue to cooperate to clarify the ambiguities, he said. 

The two incomplete actions include providing information on certain kinds of high explosives that could be relevant to nuclear weapons and information on studies “in Iran in relation to neutron transport and associated modelling and calculations and their alleged application to compressed materials.” Neutron transport studies can be relevent to nuclear weapons development. 

Iran has already completed 13 actions by two agreed-on deadlines earlier this year, including providing the IAEA with information on the alleged weaponization issue involving exploding bridge wire detonators. (See ACT, September 2014.) 

Najafi said that the information proved that the detonators were for civilian applications in the oil and gas industry. The IAEA, however, has said that it will not issue an assessment until Iran has furnished information on all the alleged weaponization activities. 

In his Sept. 15 remarks to the board, Amano said the IAEA also had requested that Iran provide the agency with proposals for new practical measures by Sept. 2 to advance the IAEA investigation under the Framework for Cooperation. Amano said that Iran had not proposed any new measures. 

Najafi said that as soon as the remaining two actions are completed, Iran and the IAEA can discuss additional measures. 

In comments to the press Sept. 15, Amano said the IAEA investigation could be completed in about 15 months if Iran cooperated. The aim of the probe is to give the IAEA an understanding of the “whole picture” so that it can issue a factual assessment of the alleged weaponization activities to the IAEA board, Amano said. 

U.S. Reaction

Laura Kennedy, chargé d’affaires at the U.S. mission to the IAEA, said Sept. 18 that the United States is concerned “about the pace of progress in addressing the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.”

She urged Iran to “intensify its engagement” with the IAEA and implement the measures “without delay.” 

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the panel’s ranking member, have drafted a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressing their concern over Iran’s “refusal to fully cooperate” with the IAEA investigation. The draft letter, circulated among House members for signature on Sept. 16, said that the only “reasonable conclusion” to be drawn from Iran’s “stonewalling” of the IAEA investigation is that Iran has “much to hide.” As Arms Control Today went to press, the letter had not been sent.

Royce and Engel said that Iran’s willingness to reveal aspects of its nuclear program, including the alleged weaponization activities, is a “fundamental test” of Iran’s intention to uphold a comprehensive nuclear agreement. 

Separately from the talks with the IAEA, Iran is negotiating with the United States and five other world powers over limits to its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief (see "Little Progress Seen in Iran Talks").

Completed Actions

In its most recent quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear program, the IAEA said that one of the five actions was completed before the Aug. 25 deadline, while the other two were completed Aug. 30-31. 

According to the Sept. 5 report, Iran provided the agency with access to a centrifuge assembly workshop Aug. 18-20 and access to a centrifuges research and development center Aug. 30. 

On Aug. 31, Iran and the IAEA agreed on a safeguards approach for the Arak heavy-water reactor. Under that approach, the agency is to have regular access to the partially built reactor and receive updates on design information. Iran halted construction on the reactor in January as part of an interim agreement with the six world powers.

Posted: October 1, 2014