IAEA BoG – U.S. on Verification and Monitoring in Iran

Opening of the IAEA Board of Governors meeting, March 9, 2020. (USUNVIE)

IAEA Board of Governors Meeting, Agenda Item 5: Verification and Monitoring in Iran

U.S. statement as delivered by Ambassador Jackie Wolcott
Vienna, Austria, March 11, 2020

Good morning, Madam Chair,

The United States extends our appreciation to the Director General, the Deputy Director General for Safeguards, and their staff for their continued professionalism and dedication in carrying out their critical responsibilities in Iran. We welcome the Director General’s March 3 report on verification and monitoring in Iran. Continued thorough and factual reporting remains essential for the Board to accurately assess the status of Iran’s implementation of nuclear-related commitments. The Secretariat can count on the support of the United States as it implements this important mandate.

Madam Chair,

In November, the Board met in special session to address an urgent, unresolved matter related to Iran’s safeguards declarations. The Acting Director General first alerted the Board to this safeguards-related concern in September, underscoring that “time was of the essence” in addressing the issue. In November, we learned that this urgent issue relates to the IAEA’s detection of chemically processed uranium at an undeclared location in Iran. At the time, the Acting Director General concluded then that “the presence of nuclear material particles is an indicator of possible undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.” We also learned then that the Secretariat’s interactions with Iran to clarify and resolve this outstanding matter have been ongoing since January 2019. Let me repeat that: since January 2019.

And now it is clear, from the Director General’s report that is before us today, that four more months have passed since the special session in November without any resolution of this matter. We fully support the Secretariat’s tireless efforts to verify what appears to be a continually evolving explanation from Iran. However, the Board of Governors cannot allow Iran to obstruct and delay this process indefinitely.

As we know, these concerns relate to possible undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran today. Even small amounts of undeclared nuclear material could be used in nuclear weapons research and development. And of course, traces of nuclear material can be left by larger quantities potentially not yet accounted for. Any refusal by a state to cooperate with the IAEA to address questions involving undeclared nuclear material – in any quantity – undermines the basis of the safeguards regime everywhere. If even small amounts of undeclared nuclear material were present in Iran today, it would pose an extremely serious proliferation concern, particularly given Iran’s history of covertly pursuing nuclear weapons.

We cannot simply dismiss this risk, and we cannot simply discount this as a historical issue. Iran’s failure to declare nuclear material or activities in Iran, and refusal to comply with IAEA requests for information or access, could also represent violations of Iran’s safeguards obligations, and indeed of Article III of the NPT. These issues present not just a substantive danger on their own but also strike at the heart of the international nuclear verification system. Well over a year since the Secretariat began engaging Iran on this urgent safeguards matter, the full scope of the issue is still unknown. What we do know, however, is that Iran has delayed, denied, and prevaricated for over a year without resolving the IAEA’s concerns. Iran’s failure to resolve such safeguards concerns, after more than an entire year, is absolutely unacceptable.

Now, astoundingly, we are learning that this is not even the only urgent safeguards concern the Secretariat is investigating in Iran. As the report before us makes clear, the Director General can no longer provide the assurance made in the reports that the Agency has conducted complementary accesses to all the sites and locations in Iran which it needed to visit. We will address these other critical safeguards issues under the Nuclear Verification agenda item.

For now, let me underscore that Iran must cooperate fully to resolve the IAEA’s concerns about possible undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran without further delay. In the absence of such resolution, the Board of Governors must be prepared to take action to help ensure Iran’s safeguards compliance. If progress is made – and particularly if it is not – we ask that the Director General update the Board promptly on this issue and other urgent safeguards matters now before us.

Madam Chair,

At the same time the Director General is reporting serious safeguards concerns, Iran has continued to expand its proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities. Since our last meeting, Iran has nearly tripled its enriched uranium stockpile. Iran is also continuing to enrich uranium at the Fordow facility, the fortified, underground bunker Iran originally constructed in secret. There is no legitimate reason for Iran to resume uranium enrichment at such a proliferation-sensitive facility. In addition, Iran continues to produce heavy water in excess of its needs, at a production plant originally built to supply heavy water for a reactor suited to produce weapons-grade plutonium.
In light of these continued nuclear provocations, we welcome the initiation of the dispute resolution process in January by France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The international community should speak with one voice to insist that Iran reverse these escalations immediately. Iran’s actions are transparent attempts at extortion, aiming clearly at raising tensions rather than defusing them. Such tactics will neither resolve the current impasse nor bring Iran sanctions relief. They will only deepen the regime’s political and economic isolation.

As President Trump has repeatedly made clear, we remain ready and willing to negotiate with Iran without preconditions to resolve the issues that divide it from the international community. Our goal is the conclusion of a comprehensive deal with Iran that addresses our concerns, ends Iran’s destabilizing behaviors, and fully reintegrates Iran into the international community. To achieve full normalization of relations and the lifting of sanctions, however, Iran must be willing to end its malign behavior and take lasting steps that deny it any pathway to nuclear weapons.

Madam Chair,

We have highlighted the importance of ensuring the provision of adequate resources in support of the IAEA’s crucial monitoring role in Iran. The United States welcomes the numerous pledges of financial support for the IAEA’s verification and monitoring efforts in Iran, augmenting regular budget resources. We should all continue to ensure that while pursuing the IAEA’s vital responsibilities in Iran, we also continue to support the Agency’s other essential tasks globally in safeguards, security, safety, and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Madam Chair,

Given the significance of these issues, we ask that the Director General keep the Board fully and regularly apprised of these issues until all outstanding safeguards questions are resolved. With these comments, the United States welcomes the Director General’s report contained in document GOV/2020/5, and requests that it be made public.

Thank you, Madam Chair.