Searches on sites indicate Iran has undeclared nuclear material
BRUSSELS – According to three diplomats briefed on the discovery by UN inspectors, new evidence of undeclared nuclear activities in Iran has been found, raising new questions about the scope of the country’s nuclear ambitions.
There were traces of radioactive material in samples taken from two sites during a fall inspection by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency, diplomats said, which could indicate Iran has worked on nuclear weapons, where it was found . Diplomats said they did not know what was found.
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Last year, Iran barred IAEA inspectors from examining the sites involved for seven months, creating a deadlock. Tehran has long denied that it has sought to build atomic bombs, saying that all its nuclear works are for peaceful purposes such as power generation and health care. There was no immediate comment from Iran on the findings.
In recent months, Iran has stepped up its nuclear activities, breaking several borders in the 2015 nuclear deal and sealing it with the US, European powers, Russia and China. The moves began a year after the Trump administration pulled out of the deal in May 2018 and then imposed extensive sanctions on Iran, which were removed as part of the deal.
IAEA has also threatened to restrict access to inspectors’ sites later this month. These steps have raised concerns about Iran’s nuclear intentions in Washington.
US and Israeli officials have said that the retention of Iran’s nuclear materials, equipment and information contained in the nuclear collection raided by Israel in 2018 is planned to show the country its nuclear weapons work again.
The IAEA listed June’s questions in a report asking Iran to clarify work that could be used for nuclear weapons. One doubt was the Iranian drilling of uranium metal disks, which could be used to make materials for neutron initiators, experts say, a key component of a nuclear weapon. A second suspicion was that nuclear material was introduced at a place where Iran may have tested high explosives that could be used to detonate nuclear weapons.
The agency has also asked Iran about another undeclared site where illegal uranium conversion and processing could occur, it said.
All suspicious activities occurred in the early 2000s or earlier, according to the agency. Two of the sites were stranded years ago. The IAEA reported that in 2019 another site was approved by Iran. The IAEA said that it has not ruled out that the materials of this nuclear work have been used recently.
“The discovery of radioactive material at these sites indicates that Iran actually has undeclared nuclear material,” said David Albright, a former weapons inspector and president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington. “This would indicate that Iran has had a nuclear weapons program in the past, potentially leading the IAEA to gain access to more sites and more explanations from Iran.”
The IAEA said in 2015 that Iran had a structured nuclear weapons program until 2003 and continued some activities thereafter. Washington and European powers have reached similar conclusions.
Diplomats said that the IAEA has not yet reported the latest findings from member countries. It is currently asking Iran to provide an explanation for the content, one of them said, a standard practice. The agency declined to comment on the new findings.
The IAEA has previously stated that it found several undeclared uranium particles, including enriched uranium, at a separate secret site in Tehran in 2019, believed to be a warehouse for nuclear equipment. It was he who led the agency to seek access to other sites in Iran.
The United Nations has said that Indian troops are being sent to the rebels in Yemen to carry out the ‘mission’.
The US, European powers and others have urged Iran to cooperate fully with the agency’s extensive investigation into Iran’s previous nuclear activities.
Tensions have been rising for the past 18 months over the investigation of undisclosed material from the IAEA. The main function of the IAEA is to protect the nuclear material used for civilian purposes and to ensure that it is not diverted for nuclear weapons. Iran has to declare all nuclear material in the country under its international obligations.
Last year, member countries on the IAEA board voted to censor Iran for failing to cooperate. Iran rejected the move as undue pressure and was supported by Russia and China.
Iran says the IAEA investigation is based on fabricated Israeli information and has prompted the agency to complete its work early. Iran’s threat to restrict access to IAEA inspectors’ sites later this month could limit the agency’s ability to deepen investigations if the US does not lift the ban on Tehran.
After the IAEA requested access to both sites in January 2020, Iran repeated until IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi traveled to Tehran in August and struck a deal. Inspectors took samples at both sites and shortly afterwards conducted additional inspections at another location.
While the samples were being tested in laboratories, Mr. Grossi pressured Iran to properly explain the presence of uranium particles found at the Tehran site in 2019.
Mr. Grossi has vowed to continue the IAEA investigation until Iran is responsible for all the undeclared material. In November, he called Iran’s explanation for uranium particles found at a site in Tehran “not technically reliable” and said Iran needed the material “completely and immediately”. Iran has said that it is cooperating with the agency.