U.N. nuclear watchdog admonishes Iran for denying access to two sites

Vienna (Reuters) – The U.N. watchdog policing Iran’s troubled nuclear deal with major powers admonished Tehran on Tuesday for failing to answer its questions about past nuclear activities at three sites and for denying it access to two of them.

Reuters first reported on Monday that the IAEA planned to issue a second report in addition to its regular quarterly update on Iran’s nuclear activities, rebuking Iran for less than full cooperation in general and for failing to grant U.N. inspectors access to one or more sites of interest.

The regular report showed Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium nearly tripling since November to more than a tonne, as Tehran continues to breach key limits of its steadily eroding nuclear deal in response to renewed U.S. sanctions against it since Washington pulled out of the accord in May 2018.

The extraordinary second report delved into the International Atomic Energy Agency’s open questions and Iran’s denial of access to sites which two senior diplomats said are believed to have been active in the early 2000s.

“I judged it necessary to produce a second report because I thought the situation is serious enough to merit such a move on my part,” new IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, who took office in December, told Reuters in an interview in Paris.

The second confidential IAEA report to member states seen by Reuters said Iran has not provided access to the agency to two locations … and not engaged in substantive discussions to clarify agency questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities.

“We have insisted and despite all our efforts we have not been able to get that, so the situation requires on my part such a step because what this means is that Iran is curtailing the ability of the agency to do its work,” he said, adding that he hoped Tehran would reverse course after the IAEA’s board meets next week in Vienna.

What exactly is thought to have happened at the three sites, none of which the IAEA has visited before, is unclear.

They are also different to the site in Tehran to which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew attention in 2018, calling it a “secret atomic warehouse”, where the IAEA later found traces of uranium.

Discussions with Iran aimed at explaining those traces of uranium that was processed – but not enriched – are ongoing, despite the agency previously encouraging Iran to do more.