"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
Officials Differ on Iran Deal Reporting
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October 2016

By Kelsey Davenport

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued its third quarterly report assessing Iran’s compliance with the July 2015 nuclear deal, as officials from several nations disagree on whether more details are needed in IAEA reporting on Tehran’s nuclear activities. 

The Sept. 8 report says that Iran is abiding by key restrictions laid out in the agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States). The IAEA certified in January that Iran met the requirements to begin implementation of the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Prior to that, the agency was directed by its board of governors in December 2015 to issue quarterly reports on Iran’s compliance. (See ACT, March 2016; January/February 2016.)

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Yukiya Amano meets with Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna on March 5. (Photo credit: Veysel Kuecuektas/IAEA)The report notes compliance with constraints set by the accord, among them Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium being less than the 300-kilogram cap, its enrichment levels remaining at 3.67 percent uranium-235, and Tehran using only 5,060 first-generation IR-1 centrifuges for enrichment at its Natanz facility. 

Despite these details, an official from one of the European countries that negotiated the agreement with Iran told Arms Control Today on Sept. 19 that “it is in the best interest of all parties to the agreement for the agency to provide greater detail” on Iran’s nuclear activities. The official said that “more transparency equals more trust in the implementation of the deal” and that several European countries planned to urge IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano to be more forthcoming in the quarterly reports during the September meetings of the IAEA Board of Governors. 

But another European official said in a Sept. 16 email that there is too much emphasis on the content of the agency’s reports. He said that nuclear activities and the monitoring of nuclear programs is “technically sensitive” and that “not every detail needs to be public.” The official said that what is important is that the IAEA continue to raise any compliance concerns that it observes, as the agency did with the heavy-water limits, and that all of the parties continue to work together to resolve any issues that may emerge as the deal is implemented.

In its first quarterly report on implementation of the agreement, the IAEA in February said that Iran’s stockpile of heavy water, which can be used to moderate some types of nuclear reactors, exceeded the 130 metric ton limit set in the deal. Iran shipped out a portion of its stockpile to return to compliance. The subsequent reports in May and September noted that Iran was under the 130-ton limit. 

In a Sept. 21 statement to the board, Laura Holgate, U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, said that the reports “have included the level of detail necessary” for the board and the parties to the nuclear deal to “accurately assess Iran’s implementation of its commitments” and that the “amount of detail needed in these reports necessarily depends on the IAEA’s actual observations and they can be adjusted as necessary.”

The September report did provide some new information on Iranian nuclear activities since the previous IAEA report on Iran, issued in May. The September report noted that Iran removed 96 IR-1 centrifuges from the storage area at Natanz to replace damaged centrifuges that were enriching uranium. As part of the agreement, Iran moved about 13,000 centrifuge machines into storage monitored by the IAEA and can only access the machines under agency supervision to replace broken or damaged machines. 

According to the report, Iran also submitted declarations to the IAEA for implementation of its additional protocol, which gives agency inspectors expanded access to information and sites, and the IAEA is evaluating those documents. As part of the nuclear agreement, Iran is provisionally implementing the additional protocol to its safeguards agreement and will seek ratification of the document.