U.S. Statement – Agenda Item 6C – IAEA Board of Governors Meeting – March 2024

March 7, 2024

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

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Thank you, Chair.

Today I would like to take the opportunity to take stock of the current situation with respect to the unresolved issues related to possible undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, as well as the history of Board support for the efforts of the Director General, and how the Board can best advance our shared objectives and meet our responsibilities in support of the Secretariat and the NPT.

Let me state our objective clearly.  The IAEA must be able to provide comprehensive assurances that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.  Where the IAEA raises questions or concerns, Iran is legally obligated to respond with technically credible information and any access the IAEA requires.  We look forward to the day when the IAEA’s concerns in Iran have been satisfactorily addressed and IAEA safeguards implementation in Iran need no longer be a topic for Board discussion.  Unfortunately, Iran has for years failed to provide the cooperation required for the IAEA to bring us to that welcome day.

It has been more than five years since the IAEA first detected the presence of nuclear material at an undeclared location in Iran, a location we now know as Turquzabad, where the Agency assesses Iran engaged in the undeclared storage of nuclear material and equipment.

It has been more than three-and-a-half years since the IAEA detected the presence of nuclear material at a second undeclared location in Iran, a location we now know as Varamin, that the Agency assesses was an undeclared pilot-scale uranium conversion plant.

It has likewise been more than three-and-a-half years since the IAEA detected the presence of nuclear material at a third undeclared location in Iran, a location we now know as Marivan, that the Agency assesses was involved in explosive experiments in preparation for the use of neutron detectors and nuclear material.  Although, according to the Director General, the Agency’s questions with respect to the origin of nuclear material detected at Marivan are no longer outstanding at this stage, Iran has never credibly addressed the Agency’s assessment of the location’s purpose and function.

The Director General and the Secretariat have been patient and professional in their efforts to engage Iran regarding the information required to fully clarify and resolve the Agency’s questions with respect to these undeclared locations.  Iran has claimed at times to be ready to take tangible steps but, time and again, the lack of credible follow-through turned promise into disappointment.

In the March 2022 IAEA-Iran Joint Statement, Iran agreed to provide the IAEA with written explanations and supporting documents in response to IAEA questions.  Regrettably, the Director General reported in May 2022 that Iran’s explanations were not technically credible, and the Agency could not confirm the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations under its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement.  This report calls into question the use and current location of material required to be safeguarded.  In accordance with Article 19 of Iran’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, should the Board find that the Secretariat cannot verify that there has been no diversion of such material, the Board may take specified actions, while also affording Iran every reasonable opportunity to furnish the Board with any necessary reassurance.  We believe the Board has given, and will continue to give, Iran such reasonable opportunity, but it cannot continue to allow Iran to indefinitely delay and deflect.

In the March 2023 IAEA-Iran Joint Statement, Iran again expressed its readiness to provide further information and access to address the outstanding safeguards issues.  After only limited progress towards implementing certain elements of the Joint Statement, primarily with respect to servicing IAEA monitoring equipment without providing the IAEA access to the recorded data, the Director General again reported last week that no progress towards the agreed objectives of the Joint Statement had been made.

In addition, longstanding questions continue to reverberate through Iran’s engagement with the Agency and new concerns have arisen with respect to Iran’s implementation of its NPT-required safeguards agreement.  One such longstanding issue concerns Iran’s past, originally undeclared, uranium metal activities.  In what seemed to be potential progress at the time, the Agency reported in March 2022 that it had a series of exchanges with Iran.  While noting that it could not exclude the possibility that natural uranium in the form of a metal disc had been melted, re-cast, and included as part of the declared inventory at JHL, the Agency stated that, as a result of these exchanges, the issue could be considered as “no longer outstanding at this stage.”

Shortly after that report, however, Iran shipped this metal and associated uranium waste from the JHL Laboratory to the Uranium Conversion Facility at Esfahan in order to dissolve it.  Now, the Director General’s latest report says that the process of rectifying a discrepancy detected from that dissolution activity indicates that the amount of uranium sent from JHL to Esfahan was less than Iran originally declared, and that this matter warrants further consideration.  To be clear about the implication here, the ultimate question remains whether there is some quantity of uranium metal that remains unaccounted for in Iran and, more importantly, to what purpose was that metal put?

A newly expanding concern is Iran’s continued violation of its obligations under modified Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements to its Safeguards Agreement, obligations Iran accepted in 2003, long before the JCPOA.  As the Director General’s latest report notes, Iran has publicly announced locations for new nuclear facilities for which it has refused to provide the Agency with preliminary design information as obligated under modified Code 3.1.

Throughout the long effort to secure Iran’s cooperation and establish the necessary IAEA verification assurance, we have been steadfast in our support for the Agency’s efforts to resolve the outstanding safeguards issues.  The Board has been strong and unambiguous in its demands that Iran provide the necessary cooperation.  In June 2022, the Board adopted a resolution calling on Iran to act on an urgent basis to fulfil its legal obligations and, without delay, take up the Director General’s offer of further engagement to clarify and resolve all outstanding safeguards issues.  Regrettably, the Director General reported in September 2022 that Iran had not engaged with the Agency and the safeguards issues remained outstanding.

The Board then adopted another resolution, in November 2022, deciding that it is essential and urgent that Iran fulfil its legal obligations and take specific actions to enable the Agency to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material.  Regrettably again, nearly a year-and-a-half later, the Director General’s latest report concludes that no progress has been made towards implementing the 2023 Joint Statement.

Chair, fellow Board Members,

In light of this history and the Director General’s reporting, we believe we have come to the point that we and the broader international community must consider anew how to respond to Iran’s continued stonewalling.

After five years of only limited, last minute cooperation by Iran; five years of failure by Iran to follow through on its commitments; and five years of unresolved questions related to the presence of nuclear material at undeclared locations in Iran, we cannot allow Iran’s current pattern of behavior to continue.  We must consider further action in an effort to gain the assurances that the international community needs about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program, especially as Iran continues to build nuclear capacity that could be relevant to a nuclear weapons program should Iran decide once again to take up such an effort.

And we must consider further action for the sake of demonstrating that no state can indefinitely thwart implementation of its NPT-required safeguards obligations by obstructing the IAEA’s well-founded, technically credible, and independently derived investigation.

A number of serious questions remain outstanding:

What is the origin of the nuclear material particles detected at Turquzabad, and where is the material currently located?
What is the current location of any contaminated equipment previously stored at Turquzabad?
What is the current location of the containers previously present at Turquzabad and Varamin?
What is the origin of the nuclear material particles detected at Varamin?
What is the reason for the discrepancy between the quantity of uranium metal and waste declared by Iran in 2003-2004, and the quantity verified by the Agency following the dissolution at Esfahan in March 2022?

These questions are not historical, as some have claimed, but rather they relate to the location of potential undeclared nuclear material and relevant equipment in Iran today.  Iran’s unwillingness to clarify these serious outstanding issues only deepens our concern about the nature and intent of Iran’s ongoing nuclear activities, such as its production of 60 percent enriched uranium, which the Director General has rightly observed has only been undertaken in nuclear weapon states.  If Iran wants to establish the confidence it says it deserves, Iran must provide not only technically credible answers to these questions, but also the information, supporting documentation, and access needed, including for the purposes of collecting environmental samples, to enable the IAEA to verify the explanations – and it must begin to do so now.


It is our strongly held view that Iran’s continuing lack of credible cooperation provides grounds for pursuing further Board of Governors action, including the possibility of additional resolutions and consideration of whether Iran is once again in noncompliance with its safeguards obligations.  We continue to support the Director General’s efforts to secure meaningful cooperation from Iran and hope that the next action this Board takes on Iran will be to remove it from our agenda.  That option remains open and we sincerely hope that Iran will finally choose that path.

However, if we cannot look forward to a dispositive report from the Director General based on Iran’s full cooperation with the Agency, then we believe it would be appropriate to request from the Director General a comprehensive summary report based on the information and access so far available to inspectors.  We would see such a report as addressing the status of Iran’s nuclear activities and the degree to which the Agency is in position to verify that Iran’s program is exclusively peaceful.  No state can be allowed to indefinitely postpone such an assessment by simply not providing technically credible responses to the Agency’s legitimate questions – especially a state in which the former head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran recently boasted that Iran had in place all the elements necessary to develop a nuclear weapon.

We once again urge Iran to finally and fully provide the IAEA the necessary cooperation so that the Director General can provide a basis for normalizing Iran’s safeguards file.  If Iran does not, we will at the appropriate time and based on the Secretariat’s future reporting, work in consultation with this Board to seek a comprehensive report.  Then, based on the content of that report, we will take appropriate action in support of the IAEA and the global nuclear nonproliferation regime.  We, along with this Board and the entire international community, depend on IAEA safeguards verification for assurances that nuclear programs are exclusively peaceful.  No state, including Iran, can be allowed to undercut this essential pillar of our collective international security.

I thank you, Chair.