Introductory Statement by IAEA Director General Mohamed Elbaradei to the IAEA Board of Governors (Excerpts)

November 26, 2009

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

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Implementation of Safeguards in the Islamic Republic of Iran

You have before you my report on Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Agency has continued to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. However, there has been no movement on remaining issues of concern which need to be clarified for the Agency to verify the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran´s nuclear programme. It is now well over a year since the Agency was last able to engage Iran in discussions about these outstanding issues. We have effectively reached a dead end, unless Iran engages fully with us. It would help if we were able to share with Iran more of the material that is at the centre of these concerns. I also believe that prospects for a resolution of these outstanding issues would be enhanced by Iran implementing the Additional Protocol and by the initiation of the hoped for comprehensive dialogue between Iran and the international community.

In September, Iran informed the Agency that it had decided to construct a new pilot fuel enrichment plant. The Agency has since carried out design information verification at this plant - and verified that it is being built to contain sixteen cascades with a total of approximately 3000 centrifuges. The facility is at an advanced stage of construction and Iran plans to make it operational in 2011. Iran stated that construction of the plant was part of its efforts to protect sensitive nuclear activities against attack by using "passive defence systems."

Iran´s failure to notify the Agency of the existence of this facility until September 2009, rather than as soon as the decision to construct it or to authorize construction was taken, was inconsistent with its obligations under the Subsidiary Arrangements to its Safeguards Agreement. Iran´s late declaration of the new facility reduces confidence in the absence of other nuclear facilities under construction in Iran which have not been declared to the Agency.

As you may be aware, the Agency has been asked by Iran for assistance in providing fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor, which is used mainly to produce isotopes for medical purposes. After a positive response from the United States, Russia and France, a meeting was convened by the Agency in Vienna in October to discuss the principles and modalities of an Agency Project and Supply Agreement to provide such fuel. On the basis of the discussion at this meeting, I prepared a draft agreement to ship Iranian low enriched uranium for further enrichment in Russia and processing into fuel in France. In view of the degree of mutual mistrust, the draft agreement has extensive built-in guarantees, consisting of the Agency taking custody of the Iranian material until it is returned to Iran in the form of fuel, in addition to commitments by Russia, France and the United States to ensure that the agreement is implemented. Alternatively, I proposed that the LEU could be shipped to a third country such as Turkey, which has the confidence of all parties, and remain there under Agency custody until the reactor fuel is delivered to Iran.

The proposed agreement, as originally drafted, was accepted by the United States, Russia and France. I am disappointed that Iran has not so far agreed to the original proposal or the alternative modalities, both of which I believe are balanced and fair and would greatly help to alleviate the concerns relating to Iran´s nuclear programme. My understanding of Iran´s position so far is that it is ready to exchange LEU produced in Iran, in two batches, simultaneously upon receipt of an equivalent amount of fuel for its research reactor. Pending receipt of the fuel, Iran is ready to place the LEU under IAEA custody and control, but only in Iran.

The proposed agreement is meant to ensure the continued operation of the Tehran Research Reactor and maintain its ability to produce medical isotopes so that cancer patients receive the treatment they need. Equally importantly, it would also help to bring about a shift away from confrontation towards cooperation and open the way for a broad dialogue between Iran and the international community. In my view, the proposed agreement represents a unique opportunity to address a humanitarian need and create space for negotiations. This opportunity should be seized and it would be highly regrettable if it was missed.

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