UN Nuclear Watchdog Slams Iran for Stockpiling Uranium, Ignoring Its Queries

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a worker rides a bicycle in front of the reactor building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, just outside the southern city of Bushehr
a worker rides a bicycle in front of the reactor building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, just outside the southern city of BushehrCredit: AP Photo/Mehr News Agency, Majid Asgaripour

The UN atomic watchdog said on Tuesday that Iran has continued to increase its stockpile of highly enriched uranium that could be used to make nuclear weapons in contravention of a 2015 accord with world powers that was meant to contain Tehran's nuclear program.

The International Atomic Energy Agency also chided Iran for its continued failure to answer questions including on uranium traces found at undeclared sites.

"The Director General is increasingly concerned that even after some two years the safeguards issues outlined above in relation to the four locations in Iran not declared to the Agency remain unresolved," the International Atomic Energy Agency said in one of two quarterly reports on Iran.

It also told member states that its monitoring activities have been “seriously undermined” since February by Iran's refusal to let inspectors access IAEA monitoring equipment.

The Vienna-based agency added that its confidence in properly assessing Iran's activities - what it called the “continuity of knowledge” - was declining over time and that would continue "unless the situation is immediately rectified by Iran”.

The IAEA said certain monitoring and surveillance equipment cannot be left for more than three months without being serviced. It was provided with access this month to four surveillance cameras installed at one site, but one of the cameras had been destroyed and a second had been severely damaged, the agency said.

The confidential reports by IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi to IAEA member states, issued ahead of next week's meeting of its 35-nation Board of Governors, were reviewed by Reuters. The second report said Iran must resolve outstanding issues relating to the sites, which include questions about a fourth location the IAEA has not inspected, "without further delay."

Its director-general, Rafael Mariano Grossis, however, said he was willing to travel to Iran to meet the recently elected government for talks.

The agency said it estimates Iran’s stock of uranium enriched to up to 60 percent fissile purity at 10 kilograms, an increase of 7.6 kilograms since May, while the country's stockpile of uranium enriched to up to 20 percent fissile purity is now estimated at 84.3 kilograms, up from 62.8 kilograms three months earlier.

Iran’s total stock of uranium is estimated at 2441.3 kilograms as of August 30, down from 3241 kilograms on May 22, the agency said.

Tehran is only permitted to stockpile 202.8 kilograms of uranium under the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, which promises Iran economic incentives in exchange for limits on its nuclear program, and is meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.

The U.S. unilaterally pulled out of the nuclear deal in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, but Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia have tried to preserve the accord.

Tehran's strategy of deliberately violating the deal is seen as an attempt to put pressure particularly on Europe to provide it with incentives to offset crippling American sanctions re-imposed after the U.S. pullout.

President Joe Biden has said he is open to rejoining the pact. The last round of talks in Vienna ended in June without a clear result.

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