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Rule of LawIran

Iran: IAEA urges nuclear monitors' return

February 26, 2024

The UN's nuclear watchdog has lamented a lack of access for inspectors in Iran and also noted continued uranium enrichment in a quarterly report. Recent public comments from Tehran were not reassuring either, it said.

The Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, seen here, is Iran's first commercial nuclear reactor. Archive image dated October 2021.
The Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, seen here, is Iran's first commercial nuclear reactor that went online in 2011Image: Iranian Presidency/ZUMA/picture alliance

Iran is continuing to enrich and stockpile uranium, some of it to levels close to what would be needed to make nuclear weapons, a confidential report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Monday. 

The IAEA report said that Iran had both increased the size of its overall uranium stockpile, and also accelerated production of 60% enriched uranium in the previous quarter. 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran's total uranium stockpile, enriched to any level, stood at an estimated 5,525.5 kg as of February 10. That is 1,038.7 kg more than what the UN nuclear agency accounted for the last time it released a report in November.

It's also 27 times the limit once agreed with Iran in a 2015 international deal that the US broke under President Donald Trump and which has not been revived since.

The country also produced some 25 kilograms of uranium with a purity of 60% between the end of October and February 25, according to the UN's nuclear watchdog. However, its stockpile of highly enriched uranium shrank during the same time period, because some of that highly enriched material had been mixed with lower grade uranium again and diluted.

Typical nuclear bombs would require uranium enriched to 80% or more likely 90% purity although with enough material, more impure uranium can in theory be used. Most nuclear power plant reactors require uranium enriched only to 3.67%. 

Public statements on nuclear capabilities 'only increase the ... concerns'

The IAEA noted recent comments from Iran praising its nuclear production facilities and announcing that more would be built. 

"Public statements made in Iran regarding its technical capabilities to produce nuclear weapons only increase the Director General's concerns about the correctness and completeness of Iran's safeguards declarations," IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi was quoted as saying in the report.

Iran, which asserts that its nuclear program is for civilian and research purposes only, has in recent years taken several steps seemingly designed to limit IAEA oversight of its activities, including deactivating surveillance devices on site and barring certain IAEA inspectors

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi said he deepy regretted that Iran had yet to reverse its decision to withdraw the "designations for some inspectors, which is essential" to monitoring Iran's nuclear stockpile.

He called on Tehran to "cooperate fully and unambiguously with the agency," saying: "Only through constructive and meaningful engagement can these concerns be addressed." 

Iran said last week that it had invited Grossi to visit the country for an international conference on energy in May of this year.

rm/msh (Reuters, AFP)