Iran: IAEA Seeks Enhanced International Inspections

The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna has seen “no evidence” that Iran has a military nuclear program, says spokesman David Kyd. But, Kyd is quick to add: “We don’t give the Iranians a clean bill of health; we just haven’t seen anything to indicate otherwise.” For now, he says, the agency must continue its work as if the Iranians are acting in good faith.

During the past year, IAEA inspectors started to pay quarterly visits to Iran’s declared nuclear facilities, where they have never detected any prohibited activities. Iran has issued a standing invitation for inspectors to visit any site, anytime, anywhere.

U.S. officials, who believe Iran plans to acquire nuclear weapons, say it is too early to prove that Iran is breaking the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). “There has been no material breach of the Treaty per se,” says one U.S. official. He admits that the type of equipment Iran has bought for its nuclear program can be explained as “dual-use” technology with civilian applications.

Stung by its failure to detect the secret nuclear weapon programs of South Africa and Iraq, the IAEA has proposed stronger inspection measures. These would include waiving the standard visa requirements for inspectors so they could conduct “no-notice” visits to suspected nuclear sites. The IAEA also wants better reports from countries on their nuclear-related imports and exports and wants permission to use special monitoring equipment to determine what kind of nuclear activity, if any, is taking place at sites the Agency is allowed to visit.

In addition, the IAEA wants to install instruments that would trigger an alarm in Vienna if suspicious activity takes place at a monitored site. Currently, the inspectors have to visit the sites in person to check video surveillance equipment, change film, and inspect seals designed to prevent unauthorized movement of nuclear material.

“It would be a bonus for Iran to accept the new measures,” says Mr. Kyd. He doesn’t expect Iran to oppose them provided they are endorsed by the IAEA Board of Governors and apply to all other countries. The enhanced inspection methods, known as the 93+2 program, could be used only at nuclear sites the agency is allowed to inspect.

A U.S. official who monitors nuclear developments in Iran says Washington opposes all nuclear cooperation with Tehran. Mr. Kyd admits that Iranians are permitted to train at the IAEA’s European nuclear institutes but argues that the agency is “not heavily involved in technical cooperation with Iran.”