IAEA signs off on Iran case

16 December 2015

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors on 15 December closed its investigation into whether Iran once had a nuclear weapons programme. The decision, reached by consensus, ended a 10-year investigation into Iran's nuclear programme, following Western allegations that the programme had military dimensions and the imposition on Iran of every more stringent economic sanctions.

The IAEA decision comes after the USA, Russia, the UK, France, Germany and China (the EU3+3) reached a deal with Iran in July, formally known as the Join Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), under which sanctions will be lifted in exchange for restrictions on the Iran's nuclear activities. With companies from the six powers and other nations lining up to do business in Iran once sanctions are lifted, there had been little opposition to the resolution.

Ahead of adoption of a resolution ending the investigation, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told the 35-nation board that his investigation could not "reconstruct all the details of activities conducted by Iran in the past". The resolution on ending the investigation was drawn up by the EU3+3 countries.

Once approved, it opens the way for implementation of the JCPOA, formally expected next month. Once the IAEA confirms that Iran has modified or cut back on programmes and activities that could be re-engineered to produce the fissile core of nuclear weapons, bilateral and international sanctions will be lifted.

Iranian officials said implementation of the JCPOA, should include the release, perhaps as early as January, of about $100bn in frozen funds and an end to oil and financial sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy. Iran is already dismantling its nuclear infrastructure at a rapid pace, Bloomberg reported, quoting unnamed officials. Technicians are working around the clock to remove the necessary centrifuges and enriched uranium to comply with the accord.

Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said that with the closure of the case, 12 previous IAEA resolutions against Iran, which had in turn led to UN Security Council sanctions, were also removed. This would also remove a ban on Iran's technical cooperation with the IAEA as well as on participation in IAEA's scientific meetings and workshops.

He confirmed that measures in line with the JCPOA had already begun. A working group comprising Iran, China and the USA had already been set up to start work on remodelling of Iran's Arak heavy water reactor. Salehi estimated it would take three to four years to rebuild the reactor and another year for the reactor to become operational. "We are using this opportunity to get them [China and US] to certify our design, based on their better experience in this field, and to say that what we have designed is technically correct," he added.

Iran's deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on 14 December that after adoption of the IAEA resolution, Iran would sell its enriched uranium to Russia and would receive 140t of uranium ore in exchange for 10t of enriched uranium. He added that the uranium ore from Russia had already been delivered.

Photo: IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano addressing the December meeting of the Board of Governors. (Credit: D. Calma/IAEA)

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