Report Confirms Iran Did Not Meet Safeguards Obligations at Qom: Experts Call for Greater IAEA Access

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For Immediate Release: Nov. 16, 2009

Media Contacts: Greg Thielmann, (202) 463-8270 x103 and Peter Crail, (202) 463-8270 x102.

(Washington, D.C.): Today's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran established a clear standard of transparency regarding Iran's nuclear activities, said arms control experts at the Washington-based Arms Control Association (ACA).

The IAEA made it abundantly clear that Iran is legally obligated to notify the Agency about the planned construction of new nuclear facilities when it decides to construct them, and that Iran's actions have been "inconsistent" with this obligation.

According to the Agency's latest report, "Iran remains bound by the revised Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Agreements General Part to which it had agreed in 2003."

"In other words, the Agency has rejected a possible loophole Iran pursued where it could construct a nuclear facility in secret and claim, in case that secret is revealed, that Tehran was simply not yet obligated to inform the Agency about such construction," said Peter Crail, nonproliferation analyst with ACA.

"Iran not only tried this tactic when the Fordow enrichment facility near Qom was revealed by Western governments in September, it made similar claims when its original secret nuclear facilities were made public in 2002," added Crail.

"The next logical step will be for the Agency's Board of Governors to agree that Iran failed to comply with its safeguards notification obligations in connection with Qom and set a precedent against the potential for future proliferators to unilaterally re-interpret their safeguards obligations," Crail suggested.

Iran has claimed since March 2007 that it is only responsible for providing design information on new facilities six months prior to introducing nuclear material, referencing an old version of so-called Code 3.1. The IAEA Board altered this code in 1992, requiring design information from states whenever they make a decision to construct a nuclear facility. Iran agreed to the new requirement in 2003.

According to the new IAEA report, Iran "remains the only state with significant nuclear activities which has a comprehensive safeguards agreement in force but is not implementing the provisions of the revised Code 3.1."

"Iran's undeclared pursuit of uranium enrichment at the previously secret Qom site undermines its claim that its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes. Fortunately, Iran would now be required to operate this facility under IAEA safeguards and no longer has the option of enriching uranium there in secret," Crail said.

"While Iran continues to withhold needed cooperation on the 'possible military dimensions' of its nuclear program, the IAEA reports that it is making headway in securing greater transparency with regard to Iranian nuclear activities at the Arak Heavy Water Reactor and the planned construction of a nuclear power plant at Darkhovin," noted ACA Senior Fellow Greg Thielmann.

"Rather than cooperating with the Agency only under pressure, Tehran should agree to expanding IAEA access under the terms of the Additional Protocol to ensure that it is not pursuing any other significant nuclear activities in secret," added Thielmann.

"Securing such additional transparency from Iran should be the priority for the P5+1 in their negotiations with Tehran," Thielmann concluded.