Iran has slowed its production of enriched uranium for the first time in months and even reduced its stockpile of the material, which has dual civilian and military uses, said Thursday the IAEA, the UN nuclear agency, in a report published in Vienna. Total uranium in stockpiles of varying purity has fallen by 6.7% to 3,673.7 kilos since September, although the amount of uranium enriched to 60% – a level close to what is needed for an atomic bomb – has increased by 12% (from 55.6 to 62.3 kilos).
The quantity of uranium enriched by Iran at different levels (2%, 5%, 20% and 60%), decreased between September and November from 267.2 kilos to 3,673.7 kilos, which remains well above the level set by the 2015 international agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear program. The inspectors again stress that Iran’s decision to disconnect dozens of IAEA surveillance and verification cameras hampers their ability to provide assurances about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.
As a result, monitoring and verification activities are “seriously affected”, notes the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its report. Reinstating verification and monitoring measures “would take a considerable amount of time and would always involve a degree of uncertainty”, note the report. “The longer the current situation persists, the greater the uncertainty,” the agency concludes.
In a second report released today, IAEA criticizes Iran for still not explaining the origin and nature of certain uranium particles found at undeclared nuclear sitesbut announces new discussions in the coming weeks.
Given the lack of progress in this investigation, which is taking place within the framework of the safeguards (controls) agreement, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi Expresses “Serious Concern”. At the same time, he “takes note” of the Iranian offer to discuss this issue in Tehran before the end of November, while stressing that this meeting “should be focused on the effective clarification and resolution of these issues”.
Several years ago, IAEA inspectors obtained alleged evidence of traces of artificially manufactured uranium at three Iranian facilities that the Tehran government had never declared linked to its nuclear program. Not clarifying the origin of these traces would violate the safeguards agreement that Iran signed with the IAEAand could be reported to the UN Security Council.
This investigation is not related to the checks – reduced by Tehran since February 2021 – that the IAEA carries out in Iran on its obligations under the international nuclear agreement known as the JCPOA. Under the deal, which has been in limbo for several years after the US withdrew from the deal, Iran must limit its nuclear program in exchange for economic and relief incentives, primarily the lifting of international sanctions that harm its its economy.
Although the safeguards agreement is not related to the JCPOA, Iran has linked its full return to the JCPOA to the end of IAEA investigations into traces at undeclared sites. The countries that signed the agreement in 2015 (the United States, China, Russia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Iran), have been trying to restore the agreement since the arrival of Democrat Joe Biden as President of the United States. United in January 2021, but negotiations have stalled for months.
In the context of the war in Ukraine and Iran’s military support for Russia, a reinstatement of the JCPOA is in doubt.