IAEA chief: Iran’s increasingly sophisticated nuclear program is advancing
NEW YORK: Iran’s 2022 nuclear program is vastly different from that of 2015 when the Joint Global Action for Peace was born, in the words of International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, who lamented the loss of visibility in the program after Tehran blocked its agencies’ access to nuclear facilities.
He described the Iranian program as very ambitious, broad, technically sophisticated, adding that it is moving very, very fast. And not only in front, but also laterally because his ambition and ability are growing.
I think everyone recognizes that, starting with the Iranians who say they are making incredible progress and breakthroughs.
Progress has made monitoring Tehran’s program an increasingly difficult task.
It’s not impossible to verify that, Grossi said. But it will only take a lot of work. Work of a new nature.
The head of the IAEA was speaking on the sidelines of the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. States parties to the NPT meet every five years in New York to review the historic 50-year-old treaty and the implementation of its provisions: preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, destroying the existing nuclear arsenal in order to bring to a nuclear-free world and to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The last review took place in 2015, the year the JCPOA was signed. The current summit was scheduled to take place in 2020 but was delayed by the pandemic.
It takes place at a critical time when Iran is closing in on acquiring enough fissile material for a nuclear device, China and North Korea are building up their nuclear arsenals, and Russia and the United States are breaking off nuclear talks. bilaterals on their own programs. With such an increase in nuclear risks, some analysts have warned that the NPT regime as a whole is at stake.
At the opening of the long-delayed high-level meeting, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a dire warning that humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.
At this point, as we discuss all these incredible crises that we are facing, the NPT has given us a minimum common denominator that everyone has to respect so that this thing doesn’t go crazy, Grossi told Arab News.
We need to be clear about who is doing what and where, he said, adding that the IAEA is inspired and guided in more ways than one by the NPT.
Negotiators trying to revive the JCPOA in Vienna take into account that any verification of the Iranian program would require a commensurate degree of access to the characteristics of that program, in order to be able to verify it, Grossi said.
In June, Iran removed IAEA equipment, including 27 cameras installed under the JCPOA, after the agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors passed a resolution criticizing Tehran for failing to explain traces of uranium found at three undeclared sites.
Of course, this implies that for a long period of time, now approaching two months, we had our visibility significantly reduced at some facilities where these cameras were located, Grossi said.
So the question of where the materials are and, more importantly, in the centrifuge part, the manufacturing facilities, which it is primarily, we will have to agree with Iran on how to account for them, when and whether they agree to revive the JCPOA.
When you talk about the JCPOA, what they can agree with or disagree with is up to them. What I need is to check that what they agreed is being followed.
They may decide to allow a discrete number of centrifuges of one type or another. They can decide to go back to the agreement. And the understanding is that they want to return to the amounts, quantities and levels that were agreed in 2015.
If that’s done, we’ll have to look at more things, in the sense that there were a number of centrifuges back then. There are many more now. They also have different technological capabilities and there are more facilities producing these centrifuges.
So now if the Iranians say I do have that number of centrifuges okay thank you very much but for two months there has been a lot of activity in terms of producing parts for more centrifuges than the IAEA is unable to confirm.
So we will have to find a way to fix it. Again, it’s not impossible, but it’s technically very demanding and needs Iran’s agreement to be done.
It is not the number of centrifuges that matters, nor the breadth and depth of a nuclear program, but the transparency with which it is conducted, Grossi said. Referring to the third pillar of the NPT, which calls for promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy, he reiterated that there is no limit to what countries can develop as long as they remain transparent and give inspectors from the IAEA all the access they need so that every gram of material is accounted for.
Just as the NPT’s opening remarks were aired on August 1, Iranian atomic energy chief Mohammed Eslami said Tehran had the capability to build a nuclear weapon but had no plans to do so.
Grossi declined to comment on the intent behind Eslamis’ statement, but admitted: I don’t like people talking about nuclear weapons, to be honest. I have devoted my whole life to nuclear non-proliferation. So talking about nuclear weapons is not something I really enjoy. But I’m the head of the IAEA, and I don’t tell countries what they can or can’t talk about.
For me, what is important is that all activities in Iran are subject to strict verification by the IAEA. Then they can say what they want or don’t want. It adds nothing to the value of the conversation.
When asked if the JCPOA needed to be rewritten in order to allow the IAEA to report on what happened when the cameras were turned off, Grossi said that more than the agreement itself, there would have some understanding between the IAEA and Iran. This is our business and that of Iran.
Perhaps, if they wish, the JCPOA negotiators can agree that this is a necessary issue. I can’t tell them what to say.
But for me to guarantee and tell you, Ok that’s the number of centrifuges they have, I’m going to have to have some assurances about these periods of darkness in specific places.
Grossi told Arab News that he hopes to see renewed commitment to the NPT at the end of the review conference and strong support for the work of the IAEA because, ultimately, it continues to be the only voice and eyes and ears of the international community that we can have on these very difficult issues.
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