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High-level Meetings in Iran 'Inconclusive,' IAEA Director General tells Board


IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi delivers his remarks at the opening of the Board of Governors meeting at IAEA headquarters in Vienna. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Extensive negotiations yesterday in Iran to address outstanding nuclear verification issues “proved inconclusive,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told the Agency’s Board of Governors today, as he presented the 35-member Board with his latest report on verification and monitoring in Iran.

In Tehran on 23 November, Mr Grossi met with Mohammad Eslami, the Vice President of Iran and Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, and Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The IAEA has been verifying and monitoring the implementation by Iran of its nuclear related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), sometimes referred to as the Iran nuclear deal. However, since February 2021, verification and monitoring activities have been affected as a result of Iran’s decision to stop the implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA.

A temporary agreement between Iran and the IAEA in February facilitated the maintenance of continuity of knowledge, Mr Grossi said. “However, the repeated prolongation of the agreement, which has now been in place for around nine months, is becoming a significant challenge to the Agency’s ability to restore this continuity of knowledge,” he stated.

Lack of access to the Karaj workshop to IAEA inspectors is “seriously affecting the Agency’s ability to restore continuity of knowledge at the workshop, which has been widely recognized as essential in relation to a return to the JCPOA,” Mr Grossi added.

Negotiations among parties to the JCPOA, Iran and five world powers, are expected to resume in Vienna next week.

Referring to the presence of uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at three locations in Iran not declared to the Agency, Mr Grossi stated that it “is a clear indication that nuclear material and/or equipment contaminated by nuclear material has been present at these locations.”

He also talked of “incidences of Agency inspectors being subjected to excessively invasive physical searches by security officials at nuclear facilities in Iran” and called upon Iran to remedy the situation, to implement security procedures at nuclear facilities in a manner consistent with internationally accepted security practices and to respect the privileges and immunities of the IAEA and its inspectors.

Ongoing activity in North Korea

In his statement, Mr Grossi also updated the Board about the continued monitoring of the nuclear programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), commonly known as North Korea. “We have observed new and ongoing construction activities at the Yongbyon site, including construction of an annex to the Yongbyon reported Centrifuge Enrichment Facility, the purpose of which has yet to be determined,” he stated. Additionally, Mr Grossi noted other ongoing activities at the Yongbyon site, Kangson complex and the Pyongsan Mine and Concentration Plant.

Mr Grossi repeated his call for the DPRK to comply with its obligations under Security Council resolutions and to cooperate with the Agency. IAEA inspectors were expelled from the country in 2009 and continue to monitor its nuclear programme using open source information, including satellite imagery.

Technical Cooperation priorities and Agency milestones

The IAEA’s Technical Assistance and Cooperation Committee met earlier this week. “Despite the continuing constraints on global travel because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, TC (Technical Cooperation) programme delivery has continued effectively throughout the year,” Mr Grossi stated. For the 2022-2023 TC cycle, 568 new projects have been proposed, and the top three priority areas are food and agriculture, health and nutrition, and safety and security. 

In light of the pandemic, ZODIAC, the IAEA’s initiative to prevent future outbreaks of diseases that spread from animals to humans, Mr Grossi stated that 147 countries have nominated a national coordinator, and the first batch of equipment is arriving at 25 national laboratories.

Mr Grossi noted that the Agency received more than €171 million in extrabudgetary funds in 2020, the highest amount since the Board of Governors approved the Strategic Guidelines in 2015.

Earlier this month, the IAEA hosted the International Conference on a Decade of Progress after Fukushima-Daiichi, which convened the nuclear community to look back on lessons learned and actions taken, as well as to identify ways to further strengthen nuclear safety. Furthermore, in October, the Agency hosted the International Conference on the Development of Preparedness for National and International Emergency Response and only a few weeks later conducted “the world’s largest and most complex nuclear emergency exercise,” Mr Grossi stated. The two-day event involved participants from 75 countries and 12 international organizations to test the response to a simulated accident at a nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates.

Next month, the International Conference on the Safe and Secure Transport of Nuclear and Radioactive Materials is planned for 13-17 December.

Mr Grossi also highlighted the Agency’s presence at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow. “Our presence helped ensure nuclear power gained a place at the table at one of the most important forums where climate change and the transition to clean, reliable energy were discussed,” Mr Grossi stated.

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