Watchdog warns Iran has enough nuclear material for ‘several’ bombs

Photo: Reuters

The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog said this week he plans to go to Iran next month for “much needed” talks on getting Tehran to resume cooperation over its nuclear activities and warned that Tehran has enough material for “several” weapons.

“I might be back in Tehran… in February, perhaps, for a much-needed political dialogue, or reestablishment thereof, with Iran,” Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told lawmakers in the European Parliament.

The indirect talks between Tehran and Washington to revive the agreement, brokered by the EU, have been stalled since August last year over key disagreements, including the UN nuclear watchdog’s probe into “undeclared nuclear sites”, which Iran has repeatedly dismissed as a “political move”.

Under the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, Iran was allowed to enrich uranium only up to 3.67 percent. The threshold was gradually breached by Tehran after the US walked out of the deal in May 2018.

Grossi noted the “big, big impasse” on the JCPOA and said that Iran’s own pullback from it — including disconnecting 27 IAEA cameras monitoring its declared nuclear sites — means the IAEA was no longer effectively monitoring Tehran’s nuclear program.

“I’ve been blind on this aspect for at least a year,” he said.

Grossi said he hopes to “be making some progress” on restoring Iranian cooperation with his agency during his planned visit. Also, speaking about Iran’s recent atomic activities, including enriching uranium well past JCPOA-mandated limits toward a level needed for nuclear weapons, Grossi said: “That trajectory is certainly not a good one.”

He said Iran’s growing stock of enriched uranium is a concern, as is Tehran’s failure to explain to the IAEA how radioactive traces were found in locations that were not declared as nuclear sites, Iran’s growing stock of enriched uranium is of concern, he said.

“They have amassed enough nuclear material for several nuclear weapons — not one at this point,” he said, listing 70 kilograms of uranium enriched to 60 percent purity and 1,000 kilograms at 20%. Grossi, however, noted that the big stockpile of enriched uranium “doesn’t mean they have a nuclear weapon.”

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government on Tuesday voiced concern over the stalemate in talks aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear agreement.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein met in Baghdad on Monday with Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations for Political Affairs and Peacebuilding, Rosemary A. DiCarlo, and Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert.

According to a statement issued by Iraq’s foreign ministry, Hussein said the Iraqi government is concerned about “the stagnation of the Iranian nuclear agreement.”