Iran Slapped for Clandestine Nuclear Activities

Paul Kerr

Closing a chapter in its months-long investigation of Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors adopted a resolution Nov. 26 condemning Iran’s pursuit of clandestine nuclear activities in violation of its IAEA safeguards agreement. The resolution follows a Nov. 10 report detailing Iran’s actions.

The resolution was finalized after a prolonged debate over the appropriate wording that would be used to condemn Tehran’s behavior. A Department of State official told Arms Control Today Nov. 21 that the United States, along with such countries as Australia and Canada, judged a draft resolution composed by several European countries as too weak in its criticism of Iran. Washington initially wanted the resolution to find Iran in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement, which would have required the board to refer the matter to the UN Security Council. But the U.S. official said that several countries, including Germany, had assured Iran that the issue would be handled solely by the IAEA.

As a result, the United States worked with other board members to craft alternate language to convey that Iran violated its safeguards agreement. The resolution notes with “concern” that Iran has demonstrated a “pattern of concealment resulting in breaches of safeguards obligations.” Furthermore, it includes a “trigger mechanism”—a key U.S. demand—that requires the board to meet immediately to consider all options at its disposal if “any further serious Iranian failures come to light.” Such actions could include referring the matter to the Security Council.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei presented a report that accuses Iran of repeatedly violating its safeguards agreement with the IAEA, but stops short of concluding that these activities constitute evidence of a nuclear weapons program. Safeguards agreements are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to ensure that member states do not divert civilian nuclear programs to military purposes.

ElBaradei told the board Nov. 20 that the IAEA needs additional time before it can conclude that “Iran’s program has been fully declared and is exclusively for peaceful purposes.”

U.S. officials contended that the agency’s report did not go far enough, arguing that its account of Iran’s nuclear activities confirmed Washington’s longheld suspicions that Tehran has a nuclear weapons program. U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA Kenneth Brill stated Nov. 21 in Vienna that the report “makes unequivocally clear that Iran chose…to violate its safeguards obligations in full knowledge that its actions and omissions were violations.”

The report also notes that Iran is currently implementing IAEA-requested measures designed to resolve concerns about its nuclear program, and thereby showing “active cooperation and openness.” Specifically, Iran has cooperated with the agency’s investigation and suspended its uranium enrichment activities discovered earlier this year. Those actions follow an October agreement reached between Iran and three European government. That, in turn, came on the heels of a September IAEA resolution that set an Oct. 31 deadline for Iran to cooperate with the agency. Although uranium enrichment is permitted as long as it is operating under IAEA safeguards, the resolution also called on Iran to suspend its enrichment activities as a confidence-building measure. (See ACT, November 2003.)

Additionally, Iran agreed in October to conclude an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement. The Board of Governors has now “accepted Iran’s proposal,” according to a Nov. 21 agency press statement. An additional protocol allows the IAEA to conduct more rigorous inspections in order to check for clandestine nuclear programs. The State Department official said that during the Nov. 20 meeting Iran implied it might not conclude the protocol if it disagreed with the resolution’s content, but later relented.

The Nov. 26 IAEA resolution “re-emphasises the importance of Iran…acting as if the Protocol were in force” until the Iranian parliament approves the protocol.

Still, a November CIA report to Congress expressed concern that more intrusive inspections will not contain Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, contending that “there is a serious risk that Iran could use its enrichment technology in covert activities” even with intrusive IAEA


The Report

The following excerpt is from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report, Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran, released Nov. 10.

1. The recent disclosures by Iran about its nuclear programme clearly show that, in the past, Iran had concealed many aspects of its nuclear activities, with resultant breaches of its obligation to comply with the provisions of the Safeguards Agreement. Iran’s policy of concealment continued until last month, with co-operation being limited and reactive, and information being slow in coming, changing and contradictory. While most of the breaches identified to date have involved limited quantities of nuclear material, they have dealt with the most sensitive aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, including enrichment and reprocessing. And although the materials would require further processing before being suitable for weapons purposes, the number of failures by Iran to report in a timely manner the material, facilities and activities in question as it is obliged to do pursuant to its Safeguards Agreement has given rise to serious concerns.

2. Following the Board’s adoption of resolution GOV/2003/69, the Government of Iran informed the Director General that it had now adopted a policy of full disclosure and had decided to provide the Agency with a full picture of all of its nuclear activities. Since that time, Iran has shown active co-operation and openness. This is evidenced, in particular, by Iran’s granting to the Agency unrestricted access to all locations the Agency requested to visit; by the provision of information and clarifications in relation to the origin of imported equipment and components; and by making individuals available for interviews. This is a welcome development.

3. The Agency will now undertake all the steps necessary to confirm that the information provided by Iran on its past and present nuclear activities is correct and complete. To date, there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities referred to above were related to a nuclear weapons programme. However, given Iran’s past pattern of concealment, it will take some time before the Agency is able to conclude that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes. To that end, the Agency must have a particularly robust verification system in place. An Additional Protocol, coupled with a policy of full transparency and openness on the part of Iran, is indispensable for such a system.

4. In that context, Iran has been requested to continue its policy of active co-operation by answering all of the Agency’s questions, and by providing the Agency with access to all locations, information and individuals deemed necessary by the Agency. One issue requiring investigation as a matter of urgency is the source of [highly enriched uranium] and [low-enriched uranium] contamination. The Agency intends to pursue the matter with a number of countries, whose full co-operation is essential to the resolution of this issue.

5. The recent announcement of Iran’s intention to conclude an Additional Protocol, and to act in accordance with the provisions of the Protocol pending its entry into force, is a positive development. The draft Additional Protocol is now being submitted to the Board for its consideration.

6. Iran’s decision to suspend its uranium-enrichment-related and reprocessing activities is also welcome.1 The Agency intends to verify, in the context of the Safeguards Agreement and the Additional Protocol, the implementation by Iran of this decision.

7. The Director General will inform the Board of additional developments for its further consideration at the March 2004 meeting of the Board, or earlier, as appropriate

1. It should be noted that Iran introduced UF6 into the first centrifuge at PFEP on 25 June 2003, and, on 19 August 2003, began testing a small ten-machine cascade. On 31 October 2003, Agency inspectors observed that no UF6 gas was being fed into the centrifuges, although construction and installation work at the site was continuing.

The Resolution
Below is an excerpt from the IAEA’s Nov. 26 resolution

The Board of Governors:

1. Welcomes Iran’s offer of active cooperation and openness and its positive response to the demands of the Board in the resolution adopted by Governors on 12 September 2003 (GOV/2003/69) and underlines that, in proceeding, the Board considers it essential that the declarations that have now been made by Iran amount to the correct, complete and final picture of Iran’s past and present nuclear programme, to be verified by the Agency;

2. Strongly deplores Iran’s past failures and breaches of its obligation to comply with the provisions of its Safeguards Agreement, as reported by the Director General; and urges Iran to adhere strictly to its obligations under its Safeguards Agreement in both letter and spirit;

3. Notes the statement by the Director General that Iran has taken the specific actions deemed essential and urgent and requested of it in paragraph 4 of the Resolution adopted by the Board on 12 September 2003 (GOV/2003/69);

4. Requests the Director General to take all steps necessary to confirm that the information provided by Iran on its past and present nuclear activities is correct and complete as well as to resolve such issues as remain outstanding;

5. Endorses the view of the Director General that, to achieve this, the Agency must have a particularly robust verification system in place: an Additional Protocol, coupled with a policy of full transparency and openness on the part of Iran, is indispensable;

6. Reiterates that the urgent, full and close co-operation with the Agency of all third countries is essential in the clarification of outstanding questions concerning Iran’s nuclear programme;

7. Calls on Iran to undertake and complete the taking of all necessary corrective measures on an urgent basis, to sustain full cooperation with the Agency in implementing Iran’s commitment to full disclosure and unrestricted access, and thus to provide the transparency and openness that are indispensable for the Agency to complete the considerable work necessary to provide and maintain the assurances required by Member States;

8. Decides that, should any further serious Iranian failures come to light, the Board of Governors would meet immediately to consider, in the light of the circumstances and of advice from the Director General, all options at its disposal, in accordance with the IAEA Statute and Iran’s Safeguards Agreement;

9. Notes with satisfaction the decision of Iran to conclude an Additional Protocol to its Safeguards Agreement, and re-emphasises the importance of Iran moving swiftly to ratification and also of Iran acting as if the Protocol were in force in the interim, including by making all declarations required within the required timeframe;

10. Welcomes Iran’s decision voluntarily to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and requests Iran to adhere to it, in a complete and verifiable manner; and also endorses the Director General’s acceptance of Iran’s invitation to verify implementation of that decision and report thereon;

11. Requests the Director General to submit a comprehensive report on the implementation of this resolution by mid- February 2004, for consideration by the March Board of Governors, or to report earlier if appropriate; and

12. Decides to remain seized of the matter.