Iran has continued to increase its stockpiles of enriched uranium and remains in violation of its deal with world powers, the United Nations’ atomic watchdog said on Friday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported the finding in a confidential document distributed to member countries.
In one of the report’s most startling revelations, it was revealed that Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile was almost eight times over the limit set under the terms of a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
The deal set down a limit of 300kg of enriched uranium in a particular compound form, which is the equivalent of 202.8kg of uranium.
In comparison to the latter number, Iran’s stockpile stood at 1,571.6kg on May 20.
Iran signed the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2015 with the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia. The US pulled out of the deal unilaterally in 2018.
The IAEA reported that Iran has also been continuing to enrich uranium to a purity of 4.5 per cent, higher than the 3.67 per cent allowed under the JCPOA. It is also above the pact’s limitations on heavy water, a vital component of certain types of nuclear reactor.
The nuclear deal promised Iran economic incentives in return for the curbs on its nuclear program. Since President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the deal, Iran has been slowly violating the restrictions.
It is now in violation of all restrictions outlined by the JCPOA, which Tehran says it hopes will pressure the other nations involved to increase economic incentives to make up for hard-hitting sanctions imposed by Washington after the US withdrawal.
Though Iran has been hard hit by the new coronavirus pandemic, the IAEA said it has maintained its verification and monitoring activities in the country, primarily by chartering aircraft to fly inspectors to and from Iran.
Concerns remain over access to nuclear sites
The agency also repeated its warning that Iran has continued for months to deny it access to sites of interest.
An IAEA report in March admonished Tehran for failing to answer questions about past nuclear activities at three sites and denying access to two of them. Diplomats have said the IAEA is looking into activities there long before the 2015 deal.
Friday’s report detailed suspected activities and materials including "the possible presence...of natural uranium in the form of a metal disc" at a site that "underwent extensive sanitisation and levelling in 2003 and 2004”.
"Sanitisation" is a general term used to suggest suspected activity to remove traces of nuclear material.
US intelligence agencies and the IAEA believe Iran had a secret, coordinated nuclear weapons programme that it halted in 2003.
Israel's obtaining of what it calls an "archive" of past Iranian nuclear work has, however, given the IAEA extra information on the Islamic Republic's previous activities.
The report also described "the possible use and storage of nuclear material at another location specified by the agency where outdoor, conventional explosive testing may have taken place in 2003, including in relation to testing of shielding in preparation for the use of neutron detectors".
One of the three sites was sanitised, another "underwent significant changes ... including the demolition of most buildings" - both in the early 2000s - and at the other the IAEA observed "activities consistent with efforts to sanitise part of the location" from July 2019 onwards.
"The (IAEA) director general calls on Iran immediately to cooperate fully with the agency, including by providing prompt access to the locations specified," the report said.