The UN nuclear watchdog has claimed that it has been unable to access important data relating to Iran’s nuclear programme since late February, according to a report on Monday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a confidential document distributed to member countries and seen by Associated Press that it has “not had access to the data from its online enrichment monitors and electronic seals, or had access to the measurement recordings registered by its installed measurement devices… Since 23 February 2021, however, the Agency’s verification and monitoring activities have been affected as a result of Iran’s decision to stop the implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA [known as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal], including the Additional Protocol.”
Around the same time, Iran started limiting inspections in a bid to put pressure on the administration of US President Joe Biden to lift crippling sanctions that were re-imposed after his predecessor Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal in 2018.
Under the deal, the IAEA placed around 2,000 tamper-proof seals on nuclear material and equipment. Those seals communicated electronically to inspectors. Automated measuring devices also provided real-time data from the programme.
Last week, the UN’s nuclear inspectorate said that Iran’s failure to provide credible explanations for traces of uranium found at two undeclared sites was “a big problem” that was affecting the country’s credibility.
“We know that something happened here,” explained Rafael Grossi, the director general of the IAEA. “There is no way round it. We have found this. There was material here. When was this? What has happened with this equipment? Where is the material? They have to answer.”
However, Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi is said to have written to Grossi informing him that the February agreement has expired but Iran had decided to continue to store data related to monitoring activities.
According to the Tehran Times, Iran and the IAEA agreed a temporary deal in February allowing the agency to continue its monitoring of Iran’s nuclear facilities for a period of three months, which expired more than a week ago. The deal was reached during a two-day visit by Grossi to Iran.