Nothing to Refer

In a Note Verbale of August 1, 2005, Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran had decided to resume uranium-conversion activities – voluntarily suspended by Iran almost two years before – at the Uranium Conversion Facility at Esfahan.

In October 2003, Iran had entered into negotiations with France, Germany and the United Kingdom with the explicit expectation of obtaining transparent cooperative access to European nuclear and other advanced technologies.

To further the negotiations with the Europeans, Iran agreed to sign and immediately adhere to an Additional Protocol to its IAEA Safeguards Agreement.

Iran also extended its voluntary suspension of all uranium-enrichment related activities taken almost a year ago “as a confidence building measure” to include uranium-conversion activities, and invited the IAEA to monitor the suspensions.

Since the activities Iran was resuming at Esfahan had been and would continue to be subject to IAEA Safeguards, Iran requested the Agency “to be prepared for the implementation."

In response, the IAEA informed Iran that the IAEA would need to install additional surveillance equipment at the input and output stages of certain process lines. “To ensure continuity of knowledge, it is essential that Iran refrain from removing the Agency’s seals and from moving any nuclear material at UCF until such time as the surveillance equipment is installed and the Agency has verified the material.”

So, Iran waited until 8 August to begin feeding uranium ore concentrate into the first phase of the Uranium Hexafluoride production process. And waited until 10 August to remove the IAEA seals on the Uranium Tetrafluoride previously produced.

When this resumption of Safeguarded activity was duly reported by Director-General ElBaradei to the IAEA Board of Governors, some Board members reportedly announced their intention to refer these perfectly legal IAEA Safeguarded activities to the UN Security Council for “possible disciplinary action."

Now, according to the IAEA Statute, the Director-General and his designated inspectors “shall have access at all times to all places” in an IAEA member state as necessary “to account for [Safeguarded] source and special fissionable materials” and “to determine whether there is compliance with the undertaking against use in furtherance of any military purpose."

In the performance of their duties, “the Director-General and the staff shall not seek or receive instructions from any source external to the Agency."

Furthermore, each IAEA member “undertakes to respect the international character of the responsibilities of the Director-General and the staff and shall not seek to influence them in the discharge of their duties.”

When IAEA inspectors do determine that safeguarded materials have been used "in furtherance of any military purpose," they “shall” report such “non-compliance” to the Director-General who “shall” thereupon transmit the report to the Board of Governors.

As of this writing, IAEA inspectors have made no such report to ElBaradei about Iran. In fact, more than a year ago, ElBaradei reported to the Board that “all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities.”

ElBaradei publically asked himself these questions; “Have we seen any proof of a weapons program? Have we seen undeclared [uranium] enrichment?”

ElBaradei’s answer, then and now, is “There is none of that.”

So, as a result of more than two years of go-anywhere see-anything inspections, not only has the IAEA failed to find any evidence that safeguarded materials were being "in furtherance of any military purpose." Contrary to what various unnamed “US officials” and “European diplomats” have alleged, the IAEA has not even uncovered uranium-enrichment related activities that should have been "declared" but weren’t.

Now, bear in mind that the IAEA is not a party to the negotiations that had been taking place between Iran and the Europeans.

But, Iran suggested the Europeans ask the IAEA to develop “technical, legal and monitoring modalities” for Iran’s enrichment program above and beyond those required under their Additional Protocol with the IAEA, to be monitored by the IAEA, to provide "objective guarantees" to the Europeans that all Iran’s nuclear programs would remain exclusively for peaceful purposes.

The Europeans declined the suggestion.

Finally, on March 23, 2005, Iran offered a collection of “objective guarantees” which included a “limitation of the extent of the enrichment program to solely meet the contingency fuel requirements of Iran’s power reactors."

Note that Iran is unlikely to have any such requirements for at least a decade.

Nevertheless, the Europeans didn’t even bother to respond to the Iranian offer. Is their failure to negotiate in good faith what the Europeans want referred to the Security Council?

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.