For Immediate Release: September 25, 2009*
Press Contacts: Peter Crail, Research Analyst (202-463-8270 x102); Greg Thielmann, Senior Fellow (x103)
Experts from the Arms Control Association (ACA) support the call by the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany for immediate inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of Iran's recently disclosed uranium enrichment facility near the city of Qom. ACA experts also endorse the intention of these governments to seek from Iran "concrete steps to create confidence and transparency in its nuclear program" when Iran meets with the UN Security Council permanent members and Germany (the P5+1) on October 1.
"Iran will not only need to open the Qom facility to inspections, but to open up its country completely to the most stringent international inspections authority. That will mean ratifying and implementing an additional protocol to its international safeguards agreement to provide greater assurance that similar covert nuclear facilities in the country do not exist," said Peter Crail, Nonproliferation Analyst at ACA. Iran had voluntarily accepted an additional protocol in 2003, but withdrew its acceptance in 2005.
"Failing to acquire such a commitment from Iran would only undermine the global nonproliferation rules reiterated in the UN Security Council's resolution on nuclear weapons yesterday," he added.
"This most recent instance of Iran's failure to provide timely disclosure of nuclear-related activities is particularly serious, because of the suspicions it raises with regard to a nuclear weapons intention," commented ACA Senior Fellow Greg Thielmann. The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran assessed with moderate confidence that Iran would use covert facilities, such as the one recently disclosed, to produce highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, rather than its uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, which is being monitored by the IAEA.
Thielmann noted that "the recent disclosure suggests Iran wanted to establish a capability to produce nuclear weapons in short order, given a political decision to do so."
"It appears that Iran disclosed its second site for uranium enrichment to the IAEA only after learning that Western intelligence services were aware of the site. It is encouraging that Iran was unsuccessful at keeping this uranium enrichment facility hidden and it will no longer be available for covert enrichment of bomb material," Thielmann added.
Existing UN Security Council resolutions demand that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment activities. The council also adopted a resolution yesterday reaffirming the understanding that the right to peaceful nuclear energy is conditioned on fulfilling obligations not to develop nuclear weapons and to cooperate with IAEA safeguards.
"In the talks next week the P5+1 group will need to lay out clearly the steps that Iran will need to take before its full rights to nuclear energy can be restored. The six countries should agree beforehand on clear consequences that Iran would face for failing to take such steps," said Crail.
* Updated September 27 to reflect that the views expressed here are those of experts from the Arms Control Association staff. They do not necessarily reflect the views of all ACA members of the organization.