IAEA raises alarm over Iran’s nuclear programme
VIENNA - Iran has nearly tripled its stockpile of enriched uranium over the last three months in violation of its agreement with world powers and is refusing to answer questions about three possible undeclared nuclear sites, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi said March 3 the issue was “serious” and he expressed hope Iran would return quickly to full compliance.
“I sincerely hope that Iran will listen to us and listen to the voice of the international community at the board of governors and assess that it is in their own interest to cooperate with us,” he said. “We don’t have a political agenda. We simply are requesting them to comply with their obligations.”
“We will be walking towards a crisis (if not),” he warned.
Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium is more than five times the limit fixed under a landmark 2015 deal with world powers, the IAEA, the United Nations’ nuclear monitoring group, said.
The IAEA said, as of February 19, Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile totalled 1,020.9 kilograms, compared to 372.3 kilograms noted in its report November 3. The nuclear deal that Iran signed in 2015 with the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia allows Iran to keep a stockpile of 202.8 kilograms.
With the violations, Tehran has said it hopes to put pressure on the other countries involved to increase economic incentives to make up for hard-hitting sanctions imposed by Washington after the American withdrawal from the nuclear agreement.
In a second report issued March 3, the IAEA said it identified three sites in Iran where the country possibly stored undeclared nuclear material or undertook nuclear-related activities without alerting international observers. It said it sent questions to Iran in three separate letters but received no answers.
“The agency identified a number of questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities at three locations in Iran that had not been declared by Iran,” the IAEA said.
The IAEA previously said uranium particles of man-made origin had been discovered at a location outside Tehran that had not been declared, which appeared to confirm allegations by the United States and Israel about a secret nuclear warehouse.
The agency said Tehran responded to its latest concerns in a letter January 28 that “Iran will not recognise any allegation on past activities and does not consider itself obliged to respond to such allegation.”
The IAEA responded that its requests for clarification were in line with Iran’s broader commitment to allow inspections of its nuclear facilities and not tied to the landmark nuclear deal.
Some experts consider the amount of nuclear material Iran has amassed sufficient to produce a nuclear weapon. However, Tehran would still need several more steps, including further enrichment, to make the substance usable in a weapon.
The report said that Iran has not been enriching uranium above 4.5%. An enrichment level of around 90% would be needed for weapons viability.
The 2015 deal has been hanging by a thread since the United States withdrew from it in May 2018 and imposed stinging sanctions on Iran, in particular targeting its vital oil sector.
The IAEA report was released after a meeting in Vienna of the remaining parties to the deal, which ended without a clear plan to keep the accord in place.