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"The Verification of the Peaceful Nature of Iran's Nuclear Program"

The Natanz uranium enrichment facility buildings are pictured some 200 miles south of the capital Tehran, Iran.It houses the heart of Iran's nuclear program.
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"The Verification of the Peaceful Nature of Iran's Nuclear Program"

Book Chapter

May 22, 2012

Author: Olli Heinonen, Senior Associate, Managing the Atom Project



It would soon be a decade since the international community has been faced with Iranís nuclear program. Since it became public in 2002-3 that Iran had violated its safeguards obligations and was building an enrichment plant in Natanz and a 40 MWt heavy-water reactor at Arak[1], the EU3[2] embarked on a diplomatic process to stop Iran from moving closer to a nuclear weapons capability. In November 2003, the EU3 and Iran agreed[3] that the latter suspends its uranium enrichment and reprocessing programs, signs and implements provisionally the Additional Protocol, and provides the IAEA with a complete picture on its past nuclear program. In return for Iranís disclosures, transparency and co-operation with the IAEA, the EU3 agreed that Iranís case will not be reported to the UN Security Council.

In 2005, however, Iran declared the EU3 diplomatic efforts a failure and restarted its uranium enrichment activities. In early 2006, the IAEAís Board of Governors adopted a resolution and referred the matter to the UN Security Council[4].

Since then the UN Security Council has adopted several resolutions asking Iran to suspend its enrichment and heavy water reactor programs and clarify issues related to the military dimension of its nuclear program[1]. Iran has, however, continued to a slow but steady process of furthering its enrichment program and working on other related nuclear sectors, including military aspects of the program. Simultaneously, Iran reduced its cooperation with the IAEA by suspending the provisional implementation of the Additional Protocol, and reverted back to the old Code 3.1. of the subsidiary arrangements without negotiating the provision with the IAEA[2].

Since 2008, the IAEA has practically made no progress in clarifying issues related to the military dimension of Iranís nuclear program. Neither has the Agency been able to verify the correctness and completeness of Iranís declarations under its comprehensive safeguards agreement[3].

As a result, the international community has come to know less about scope and actual content of Iranís nuclear program when Iran is, at the same time, building further its uranium enrichment capabilities.

The P5+1[4] process to find a negotiated solution to prevent a nuclear Iran continues. Some see this process as more pertinent than ever in the face of Iranís continued enrichment to higher levels, growing stockpile of fissile material and continued unresolved military-related aspects of its nuclear program. Notwithstanding the search for a diplomatic path forward, a fundamental part of restoring international confidence on the peaceful scope and future of Iranís nuclear program Ė both in the immediate as well as long term - will be the verification of the completeness and correctness as well as removing the ambiguities of Iranís declarations that ensures that its nuclear program is and remains only peaceful. The following sections provide some ideas that the IAEA could explore in mapping out what sort of verification needs to be undertaken in Iran to that end.

This chapter is from the forthcoming book, Nuclear Issues of North Korea and Iran: Technical Aspects.† The entire chapter may be downloaded below:


For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.

For Academic Citation:

Heinonen, Olli, Prof. S.H. Chang and Dr. Jungmin Kang. "The Verification of the Peaceful Nature of Iran's Nuclear Program." 2012

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