IAEA Board of Governors Meeting – Agenda Item 6d – NPT Safeguards Agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran
U.S. Statement as Delivered by Ambassador Laura S.H. Holgate
Vienna, Austria, March 8, 2023
The United States once again extends its appreciation to the Director General and the Secretariat for their tireless efforts to engage Iran on longstanding questions related to Iran’s implementation of its legal obligations under its NPT safeguards agreement and, in particular, the need for Iran to provide the IAEA with technically credible explanations for the IAEA’s detection of particles of nuclear material at three undeclared locations in Iran.
These questions have remained unresolved for as long as four years, during which time the Board of Governors has clearly, strongly, and repeatedly called upon Iran to cooperate with the IAEA fully and without delay, including by adopting resolutions in June 2020, June 2022, and November 2022. In addition, as reported by the Director General in GOV/2023/9, during this time the Agency provided Iran with numerous opportunities, in different formats, to clarify the outstanding issues. Regrettably, as reported by the Director General, by the end of February of this year, no progress had been made. This continued lack of progress undermines the ability of the IAEA to confirm the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations under its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement or to provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful. The absence of that essential assurance remains deeply troubling.
In fact, rather than making progress, Iran continues to move in exactly the wrong direction. As reported by the Director General, the list of outstanding questions related to Iran’s implementation of its legal obligations under its NPT safeguards agreement continues to grow. Not only did Iran fail to declare in advance changes to the configuration of centrifuge cascades at Fordow in January, as required by its safeguards agreement, but the IAEA also detected particles of uranium enriched as high as 83.7 percent at that very same facility. The fact that these new developments occurred in a heavily fortified facility that was originally built covertly only deepens our concerns.
The undeclared configuration change, a clear violation of Iran’s safeguards obligations, and Iran’s initial response to it were egregious. Iran’s first response was to make unfounded accusations against the Agency’s inspectors and leadership, both in the press and in a document circulated formally to all Member States. Iran’s initial position was belied by its subsequent submission of the required design information to the IAEA, provided long after the fact and more than one month after the IAEA made clear to Iran the requirement to declare such changes in advance.
With respect to the detected particles of uranium enriched to 83.7 percent, all Board members should be gravely concerned by this alarming development. Iran must provide full and immediate cooperation with the IAEA to clarify what happened and facilitate all appropriate verification and monitoring measures deemed necessary by the Agency so that any future occurrence is promptly detected. Iran must ensure that such an incident never occurs again.
Another new and concerning development reported by the Director General is the Agency’s discovery of a discrepancy in the quantity of nuclear material involved in Iran’s dissolution of uranium metal last year. As reported by the Director General, Iran has acknowledged this discrepancy. We look forward to additional reporting from the Director General on this issue and believe that it should be included among the set of unresolved questions related to Iran’s implementation of its NPT safeguards agreement. Unfortunately, the emergence of new and troubling safeguards issues is a long and disturbing trend with Iran. Iran must change course and resolve these serious issues rather than repeatedly generate new concerns.
Given both the longstanding and newly reported safeguards issues, we welcome last week’s Joint Statement issued by the IAEA and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, and in particular Iran’s stated readiness to provide the IAEA with further information and access to address the outstanding safeguards issues. Such substantive cooperation is long overdue. Unfortunately, too many times in the past, Iran has issued similarly vague promises for cooperation in order to avoid international censure, only to never follow through. We call on Iran to uphold its safeguards obligations and stated commitments with prompt and concrete action. As we have said, the power to resolve these issues is in Iran’s hands alone.
With respect to the outstanding safeguards issues, the Board has been clear and unequivocal with respect to its expectations: Iran must act to fulfill its legal obligations and take the following specific actions identified by the Board without delay. It should provide technically credible explanations for the presence of particles of nuclear material detected at the three undeclared locations in Iran. It should inform the Agency of the current locations of the nuclear material and any associated contaminated equipment. It should provide the Agency with all information, documentation, and answers that it requires. And it should provide the Agency with access to locations and material, including for the purpose of taking environmental samples, that the Agency requires.
As the Board noted in its resolution from last November, the provision of this information and access is essential for the Secretariat to be in a position to report the safeguards issues as no longer outstanding and thereby remove the need for further Board consideration. We hope that the Joint Statement represents a positive step in this direction, and the Board should be prepared to hold Iran to account if it does not. We look forward to additional reporting from the Director General on these issues in the coming weeks.
The United States takes note of the Director General’s report contained in document GOV/2023/9 and requests that the report be made public, consistent with longstanding practice.