Rumours of August talks between Iran and the IAEA

Jul 12 2013
VERTIC Blog >> Verification and Monitoring
Ariane Jugieux, London
As the IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security recently reviewed its current and future approaches towards nuclear security, there are rumors of upcoming talks between the Agency and Iran in August. This would be the first time both parties discuss the possibility of pursuing negotiations since the election of Hassan Rouhani, who is expected to take over as Iranian president during the same month.
The latest round of talks occurred on 22 May in Vienna, without any improvements being made. Meanwhile, the next IAEA report on the Iranian nuclear programme is also due in late August, with its physical inventory verification (PIV) planned for autumn 2013.
While Rouhani’s elections is regarded a positive step to resume dialogue, many in the international community remains skeptical his arrival will result in any substantial shift in Iran’s nuclear policy. Nonetheless, Rouhani’s sixteen years as president of the Supreme National Security Council meant he actively participated in nuclear negotiations in the past, and he is likely to adopt a much softer tone on non-proliferation than his predecessor president Ahmadinejad. Thus, despite critics pointing out the Iranian political system limits his decision-making power in comparison to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Rouhani holds enough credibility and legitimacy to influence Iran’s future foreign policy and negotiations on its nuclear program.
As per May 2013, the IAEA remains concerned over Iranian nuclear capabilities, particularly in light of its non-compliance with the Additional Protocol and outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions. It has urged Iran to allow increased access to its facilities for the Agency to verify ongoing nuclear activities and to be able to provide assurance of the peaceful nature of its program. The Agency’s latest report emphasizes on recent developments in uranium enrichment, and it appears to believe Iran has yet to reach the capacities to develop a viable nuclear weapon.
An additional 639kg of UF6 enriched up to 5 per cent U-235 and 324kg of UF6 enriched up to 20 per cent U-235 have been produced since the previous report in February 2013. Overall, its stockpile of 20 per cent enriched uranium is now at 182kg, which remains far below the amount required to produce a warhead. Its Natanz plant has seen an increase in the number of centrifuges (689 IR-2M, low enrichment, compliance with DIQ), although no change has been reported on the Fordow plant (still 696 centrifuges).
Meanwhile Iran maintains it conducts no reprocessing activities, which the Agency has confirmed after two inspections on 7 and 8 May. Specifically, the IAEA monitors the use of hot cells at the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) and the Molybdenum, Iodine and Xenon Radioisotope Production (MIX) Facility, where no uranium targets have been reported. However, the heavy water reactor at under construction at Arak has proved concerning in terms of possible plutonium production. Despite the Iran Nuclear Research Reactor (IR-40 Reactor) being under Agency safeguards, Iran still refuses to allow access to its Heavy Water Production Plant (HWPP).
Finally, Iran is reported as having still failed to provide reassurance over its supposed hydrodynamic experiments in containment vessels at Parchin during the past decade. The IAEA insists that it must verify the site, which has been undergoing major leveling work since early 2012. In June, the Agency expressed concerns that it might already be too late to gather information from the site. 
The IAEA also continues to urge Iran to start implementing the Additional Protocol. Contention over the Additional Protocol is likely to feature in all upcoming talks between the IAEA and Iran. While the IAEA has no legal authority to compel any state to ratify and implement the Additional Protocol (which is a voluntary instrument), nor to itself enforce compliance over CSAs, Iran’s increased political isolation as a regional actor and the changes in its senior leadership means it might seize the opportunity for renewed talks in August. So far, both the IAEA and Iran have denied that talks are underway, and expecting negotiations as early as August might be over-optimistic, despite the need for both parties to resume discussions earlier rather than later.

Last changed: Jul 28 2013 at 9:14 AM