April 4, 2019
The UN atomic watchdog policing Iran’s nuclear deal has inspected what Israel’s prime minister called a “secret atomic warehouse” in Tehran, three diplomats familiar with the agency’s work told Reuters.
In a speech at the United Nations in September Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who vehemently opposes the deal, called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit the site immediately, saying it had housed 15 kg of unspecified radioactive material that had since been removed.
Netanyahu argued the warehouse showed Tehran still sought to obtain nuclear weapons, despite its 2015 pact with world powers to curb its nuclear program in return for a loosening of sanctions.
At the time the IAEA bristled at being told what to do, saying it does not take information presented to it at face value and sends inspectors “only when needed”.
“They’ve visited the site,” one of the three diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
One of the diplomats said the IAEA had been to the site more than once last month. The others said the agency had been there, without specifying when.
“We have nothing to hide and any access given to the IAEA so far has been in the framework of laws and regulations and nothing beyond that,” an Iranian official said.
Iran has said the site is a carpet-cleaning facility.
Determining what nuclear materials if any were present at the site will depend on an analysis of environmental samples taken there, and the results will not be in until June, two of the diplomats said.
Such environmental samples can detect telltale particles including highly enriched uranium even long after material has been removed.
The IAEA has the power under the landmark 2015 deal to carry out so-called complementary access inspections in Iran, which are often conducted at short notice, wherever it needs to.
The IAEA carried out 35 complementary access inspections in Iran in 2017, the latest year for which data is available, according to an annual report to member states that is itself confidential and which Reuters obtained.
Diplomats familiar with the IAEA’s work say such inspections are often carried out to clear up questions Iran has not fully answered or discrepancies in its declarations.