The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conducted an inspection of Iraqi nuclear materials January 20-23, successfully verifying "the presence" of non-weapons-grade fissile materials under IAEA safeguards, according to Mohamed ElBaradei, the agency's director-general. ElBaradei's comments, made in a February 12 letter to the UN Security Council, added that Iraq had provided the inspectors with the "necessary cooperation" and access required to perform their mission "effectively and efficiently."
The inspection, known as a physical inventory verification (PIV), sought to ensure that Iraq's known remaining nuclear material—which is non-weapons-grade and all located near Baghdad at the Tuwaitha C storage facility—was accounted for and properly safeguarded. As a member of the IAEA and nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iraq is required not to divert to weapons purposes any of the 1.8 tons of low-enriched uranium or several tons of natural and depleted uranium held at the storage facility.
PIV inspections are not conducted under the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 687, which was passed after the Persian Gulf War and required Iraq to give up its weapons of mass destruction. Under the resolution, the IAEA carried out full-scale monitoring and inspection activities and removed "weapons-relevant" nuclear materials from Iraq. PIVs are conducted under the agency's 1972 safeguards agreement with Baghdad, which requires inspections at declared nuclear facilities at least every 14 months. The last PIV was conducted in January 2000.Due to its limited scope, a PIV cannot verify that Iraq has not been attempting to develop or acquire nuclear weapons. According to the IAEA, it will only be able to give such an assurance when it resumes the activities established under Resolution 687, which were suspended in December 1998 just before U.S.-British airstrikes against Iraq.