Iran has moved equipment used to make components for enriching uranium from the workshop at Karaj, just west of Tehran, to Natanz, the IAEA said Wednesday.
The IAEA reported that the equipment − used to make parts for centrifuges, which enrich uranium − “remained under Agency seal at this location in Natanz and, therefore, were not operating.” Six weeks ago, Iran set up a plant to make parts at Esfahan, another nuclear facility, a move reported to the IAEA in January.
The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), the United Nations nuclear watchdog, had its access to Iran’s atomic program reduced in early 2021. Iran in December agreed to the installation of new cameras at Karaj, after an apparent attack June 2021 widely attributed to Israel. Iran’s security review at the site had threatened a temporary arrangement over monitoring equipment agreed by Iran and the agency in February.
In another area closely followed by the agency, Iran’s nuclear chief Mohammed Eslami said Wednesday that Iran had passed documents to the IAEA related to uranium traces in three sites used before 2003.
Iran and the agency in March agreed a plan to resolve controversy over the traces, which many analysts believe resulted from equipment supplied by Pakistani nuclear scientist AQ Khan. Iran was due to supply answers and evidence by late March, with outstanding questions resolved by June 20.
A uranium enrichment facility in Iran
"We have handed over the documents on March 20 to the agency,” Eslami told a televised news conference. “They are reviewing those documents and probably the agency's representatives will travel to Iran for further talks, and then the IAEA will present its conclusion.”
While the IAEA is not directly involved in Vienna talks between Iran and world powers aimed at reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, it would monitor a revived deal and IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi has made clear the agency would be better placed to access Iran’s nuclear program under powers conferred by the 2015 agreement, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). Grossi said last month he would report on Iran’s answers over the pre-2003 nuclear work to a Board of Governors' meeting beginning June 6.
With delays in the nuclear talks, both with new complications over with sanctions against Russia and disagreements between the US and Iran, JCPOA opponents in both Washington and Tehran have stepped up their efforts.
Tasnim news agency reported Tuesday that 190 Iran parliamentarians had written to President Ebrahim Raisi urging Iran’s “red lines” and national interest to be upheld. In Washington, Democrat Congressman Josh Gottheimer, among 15 Democrats holding a press conference Wednesday criticizing the Vienna talks, tweeted: “are we seriously going to let a war criminal– Vladimir Putin – be the guarantor of this deal?”
Russia was one of six world powers that signed the JCPOA in 2015. Former president Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and imposed ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions on Iran, which a year later began expanding its nuclear program beyond JCPOA limits. President Biden has expressed commitment to revive the JCPOA but has continued ‘maximum pressure.’