Iran: Nuclear escalation continues, despite 'progress' in cooperation

Noted progress but a stock of enriched uranium that is still growing

Iran: Nuclear escalation continues, despite 'progress' in cooperation

Noted progress but a stock of enriched uranium that is still growing. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) judge, in two confidential reports consulted by Agence France-Presse, that there have been several advances with Tehran in recent months, despite a continuation of its nuclear escalation. The UN body has thus decided to close the file relating to the presence of nuclear material on one of the three undeclared sites, a question which has poisoned relations between the two parties for a long time.

Regarding this Marivan site, near the locality of Abadeh, (south), the IAEA says it has received "plausible explanations" from Tehran. The international organization "has no further questions" and this matter, which has been pending for years, is "considered resolved at this stage". However, it sticks to its previous assessments on the subject, according to which Iran had planned in 2003 to store nuclear materials there for explosive tests. Two other sites continue to pose problems, recalls the IAEA: Turquzabad and Varamin.

Another point discussed was the detection at the start of the year of 83.7% enriched uranium particles, a level close to the threshold for making a bomb, on the site of the Fordo underground plant. Iran, which denies wanting to acquire nuclear weapons, had cited "involuntary fluctuations" during the enrichment process and provided new data. The agency, responsible for verifying the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, "has found that the information provided is not inconsistent with Iran's explanations of the origin of these particles and has no further questions", she writes.

The Islamic Republic severely limited its exchanges with the IAEA and disconnected surveillance cameras last year, amid deteriorating relations between Iran and Western powers. Returning from a visit to Tehran at the beginning of March, the Director General of the IAEA Rafael Grossi had welcomed Tehran's promise to restart these devices. Currently, "Iran has authorized the agency to install monitoring equipment" at three sites, the reports say. "This process must be continued", insists the IAEA, which also calls for access to the data recorded by these cameras, including during the months of interruption.

At the same time, Iran continued to free itself from the commitments made under the international agreement of 2015, in the wake of the withdrawal of the United States decided in 2018 by President Donald Trump. Its stockpiles of enriched uranium are now more than 23 times the authorized limit: they amounted to 4,744.5 kg on May 13 (compared to 3,760.8 kg in October), according to the report presented to member states a few days of a meeting of the Board of Governors.

Above all, Iran is always enriching at high levels, far from the limit set at 3.67%: it thus has 470.9 kg at 20% (compared to 434.7 kg previously) and 114.1 kg at 60 % (against 87.5 kg). Negotiations had started in April 2021 in Vienna to revive the agreement known by the acronym JCPOA, which limited Iran's atomic activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions. But they have been at a standstill since the summer of 2022, with no positive signs of recovery even if Tehran publicly claims to be in favor of a restart.