It’s apparent times have change in the discourse on Iran’s nuclear program when nuclear wonks rejoice at an IAEA report on the state of Iran’s uranium stockpiles. An IAEA report released on Thursday, entitled “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of the Security Council resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” details Iran’s progress on making good on its side of the interim deal struck with the P5+1 back in November 2013. In short: things look good for the moment, and Iran is complying.
The report confirms that Iran is pursuing in good faith the terms agreed upon in the Joint Plan of Action, signed between Iran and the P5+1 on November 24, 2013 in Geneva (see The Diplomat’s coverage of the Joint Plan of Action and the Iran deal here). It additionally follows up on commitments made by Iran in the November 11, 2013 Joint Statement on Framework for Cooperation with the IAEA.
The IAEA report finds that Iran has implemented the six initial measures it agreed to with the IAEA in November 2013. In addition, the report finds that as per the interim agreement “Enrichment of UF6 above 5% U-235 is no longer taking place.” The remainder of uranium hexafluoride enriched up to 20 percent sits at 160.6 kg – sizable, but diminishing from the 196 kg reported in the IAEA’s last report. The report notes that Iran is taking steps to down-blend these existing stocks and convert the remainder into uranium oxide.
Furthermore, the centrifuges at Fordow, while they continue to operate, are only producing uranium hexafluoride enriched to 3.5 percent. Over at Natanz, the number of centrifuges is unchanged, but Iran has not installed any new centrifuges – including the IR-2M. At the IR-40 reactor at Arak – the controversial heavy-water plutonium facility that almost stalled the interim deal – no reactor components have been installed. The Agency confirms that Iran “has not conducted ‘any further advances’ to its activities” at Arak, and has granted the IAEA access to the facility.
Concomitant to these findings, the report also notes that Iran’s declared stockpiles of uranium hexafluoride enriched to 5 percent has actually increased since the last IAEA director’s report by 454.7 kg to a total of 7,609 kg. Overall, most attention has been focused on the 20 percent stockpiles as these were the most concerning when it came to a potential Iranian nuclear bomb. The IAEA report contains a section entitled “Possible Military Dimensions” where it raises questions about Iran’s activities at Parchin. The Agency continues to seek access “to a particular location at the Parchin site.” Troublingly, the IAEA notes that it has observed “through satellite imagery what appears to be possible building material and debris at the location of interest,” indicating a possible Iranian effort to cover up evidence of weapons testing at the site.
The IAEA report comes on the heels of the latest rounds of talks between Iranian negotiators and the P5+1, which took place in Vienna this past week. The talks will lead up to a comprehensive deal after the interim deal exhausts its six month implementation. The Vienna round this week lead to an agreement on a negotiation framework between the two sides.