Analysis of the IAEA’s Iran NPT Safeguards Report - May 2024

by David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Andrea Stricker

May 31, 2024

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For the second time in its quarterly safeguards reports on Iran’s compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has drawn a direct line between Iran’s non-compliance with its comprehensive safeguards agreement (CSA) and concern about Iran’s current ability to make nuclear weapons. In the most recent report, dated May 27, 2024, the IAEA Director General cites Iran’s technical capabilities to make nuclear weapons and comments by Iranian officials about changes to the country’s nuclear doctrine as a reason for increased concern about the correctness and completeness of Iran’s safeguards declarations.

As in several past reports, the IAEA stated that it had not changed its assessment regarding undeclared nuclear material and/or activities at four sites – Lavisan-Shian, Varamin, Marivan, and Turquz-Abad. Concluding that a nuclear declaration is incomplete means Iran has violated its safeguards agreement.

Although Iran admitted that it had misstated the quantities of uranium at the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) and filed a new uranium material declaration, that resolution led to another discrepancy. The IAEA found additional nuclear material unaccounted for, which cannot be explained by accountancy measurement errors, at JHL [Jaber Ibn Hayan Multipurpose Laboratory]. The IAEA’s findings highlight concern that even when Iran admits to undeclared activities or materials, it is hiding something else.

The report once again expresses the IAEA’s condemnation of Iran’s de-designation of several of its key enrichment inspectors and failure to reinstate them and Iran’s refusal to declare new nuclear facility construction as required under Modified Code 3.1 of the subsidiary arrangements to its CSA.

Despite the IAEA launching an effort to reinvigorate the measures in a March 2023 IAEA/Iran Joint Statement on improving agency monitoring in Iran and resolving the outstanding safeguards investigation, the IAEA report concludes, “There has been no progress in the past year towards implementing the Joint Statement.”

It is long overdue that the Board of Governors provide more support to the IAEA, not only condemning Iran’s lack of cooperation as it did in its November 2022 board resolution, but also providing a deadline for compliance. The IAEA has stated that Iran has undeclared nuclear materials and activities, and Iran flatly denies it. The board must decide if it is going to believe the director general’s technical assessment or Iran’s blunt denial. Doing nothing is equivalent to dismissing the inspectors’ assessments and accepting Iran’s word.

If the board fails to act, the best-case scenario is that Iran will succeed in maintaining secrecy over past and potentially ongoing nuclear weapons activities indefinitely, weakening the IAEA in the process. At worst, it will succeed in steadily augmenting its nuclear program penalty-free, enabling it to build a nuclear weapon more quickly than Western powers could detect and stop. This would cause regional nuclear proliferation and irreparable damage to the IAEA and the NPT.


Iran is obligated under its comprehensive safeguards agreement, a key part of the NPT, to cooperate with the IAEA and fully account for nuclear material and both past and present nuclear activities. The IAEA refers to this process as a country providing both a correct and complete nuclear declaration. Without a complete declaration, the IAEA cannot provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.

For more than five years, the IAEA has been investigating and reporting on undeclared uranium and nuclear-related activities at four Iranian sites. The sites are related to Iran’s past work on nuclear weapons under the Amad Plan, Iran’s crash nuclear weapons program dating to the early 2000s, but concern its NPT compliance today, including the current whereabouts of nuclear material and equipment, as well as whether Iran continues nuclear weapons-related activities.

A November 2022 IAEA Board of Governors resolution spelled out four steps Iran must take in order to clarify the outstanding safeguards issues. These include providing technically credible explanations for the presence of uranium at the three sites, informing the IAEA about the current location(s) of the nuclear material and/or contaminated equipment, providing all information the IAEA needs, and providing access to locations and materials as needed.

In a March 2023 IAEA/Iran Joint Statement, Iran pledged to take steps to cooperate with the IAEA, expedite a resolution over the outstanding safeguards issues, and allow the IAEA to implement appropriate verification and monitoring activities.


Concerning Comments by Former Iranian Official about Nuclear Weapons Capabilities

On February 12, former Iranian foreign minister and former head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Ali Akbar Salehi, suggested in an interview that Iran has an unstructured nuclear weapons program and all the components needed to make nuclear weapons, and must only assemble them.2 He said, “Here’s an example: Imagine what a car needs; it needs a chassis, an engine, a steering wheel, a gearbox. You’re asking if we’ve made the gearbox, I say yes. Have we made the engine? Yes, but each one serves its own purpose.” In response, Director General Rafael Grossi said at the World Governments Summit in Dubai that Iran was “not entirely transparent” with its nuclear activities. “A very high official said, in fact, we have everything, it’s disassembled,” Grossi said. “Well, please let me know what you have,” he urged.3

Since then, other Iranian officials have made additional provocative statements, such as alluding to Iran changing its nuclear doctrine or already possessing nuclear weapons.4 In its latest report, the IAEA writes, “Further public statements made in Iran during this reporting period regarding its technical capabilities to produce nuclear weapons and changes to Iran’s nuclear doctrine only increase the Director General’s concerns about the correctness and completeness of Iran’s safeguards declarations.”

IAEA Assessment of Undeclared Nuclear Material and Undeclared Related Activities

The new report again emphasizes the existence of undeclared nuclear materials and related activities in Iran, contrary to Iran’s obligations under its safeguards agreement. In effect, Iran remains in violation of its CSA. In particular, the IAEA stated that it had not changed its assessment of the undeclared nuclear material and/or activities at four sites – Lavisan-Shian, Varamin, Marivan, and Turquz-Abad.

The IAEA assesses that Varamin was an undeclared pilot-scale uranium conversion plant. For Marivan, it concluded, “The analysis of all safeguards-relevant information available to the Agency related to ‘Marivan’ is consistent with Iran having conducted explosive experiments with protective shielding in preparation for the use of neutron detectors.” These detectors were related to Iran’s planned “cold test” of a nuclear weapon at Marivan (see Annex).

Turquz-Abad was an undeclared location involved in the storage of related nuclear material and equipment. For the fourth site, Lavizan-Shian, the IAEA explicitly states that activities and the nuclear material used at Lavisan-Shian “were not declared by Iran to the Agency as required under the Safeguards Agreement.”

While the inspectors are still seeking Iran’s clarification of activities at Varamin and Turquz-Abad and are thus referring to the issues as outstanding safeguards issues, the report highlights Iran’s blunt denial of the IAEA’s assessments. The report references a communication from Iran received in March 2024 stating, “all Iran’s nuclear material and activities have been completely declared to the Agency.”

The Director General reports that he “regrets that the outstanding safeguards issues have not been resolved.” According to the IAEA, “Iran has neither provided the Agency with technically credible explanations for the presence of uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at Varamin and Tuquzabad nor informed the Agency of the current location(s) of nuclear material and/or of contaminated equipment.”

This situation remains stalled despite three board resolutions and many opportunities provided by the IAEA since the investigation began in 2018. Instead, Iran doggedly sticks to its disingenuous position that it has fully declared all nuclear material, activities, and locations as required under its CSA.

In a renewed call for support from the board, the IAEA notes that no progress has been made since the board’s November 2022 resolution. Moreover, the board in recent months has not provided necessary support, further weakening the IAEA’s credibility and its leverage with Iran, which steadfastly ignores IAEA requests for cooperation and truthfulness.

De-designation of Inspectors

In this quarterly report, the IAEA again reports no progress by Iran to restore the designation of around one-third of the agency’s key enrichment-related inspectors, who it barred from the country last fall. In this report, as well as in the separate report on Iran’s compliance with UN Resolution 2231, the Director General “deeply regrets that Iran has not reversed its decision to withdraw the designations of several experienced Agency inspectors.” This measure, “while formally permitted by the NPT Safeguards Agreement, was exercised by Iran in a manner that directly and seriously affects the Agency’s ability to conduct effectively its verification activities in Iran, in particular at the enrichment facilities.” The IAEA “regards Iran’s stance as not only unprecedented, but unambiguously contrary to the cooperation that is required and expected in order to facilitate the effective implementation of its NPT safeguards agreement.”

The IAEA again writes, “The Director General regarded the linking by Iran of statements by IAEA Member States to the withdrawal by Iran of designations of Agency inspectors with the same nationality as extreme and unjustified: it effectively makes the independent technical work subject to political interpretation of other Member States’ views about Iran’s nuclear activities.” Despite calls by the IAEA to reverse its decision, Iran has not done so. As in the case of the undeclared material and activities, Iran is defying the IAEA and deserves strong condemnation from the board in order to defend the IAEA’s credibility and bolster its leverage.

Electronic Monitoring of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Production at Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) and Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP)

The IAEA reported in May 2023 in the NPT report that Iran permitted the installation of enrichment monitoring devices (EMDs) at the FFEP and PFEP. The IAEA reported in its September 2023 NPT report, “The evaluation of the data collected confirmed the general good functioning of the systems. Technical adjustments and changes to operational procedures required to enable their commissioning have been identified and are being discussed with Iran.” The IAEA reported no new information about the status of the EMDs in the last year.

Violation of Modified Code 3.1

The IAEA reports that Iran continued to violate a mandatory provision of the subsidiary arrangements to Iran’s CSA, Modified Code 3.1, by starting construction on a new nuclear power reactor known as the IR-360.5 Iran also publicly announced new construction plans for several other nuclear reactors, including the Iran Hormuz nuclear power plants, and a nuclear research reactor, but has refused to provide the IAEA with preliminary design information. The IAEA references public statements on the projects in a footnote. Modified Code 3.1 requires Iran to provide notification and early design information when it has taken a decision to build a new nuclear facility, including, for example, a reactor or an enrichment plant. The IAEA notes, “Iran remains the only State with significant nuclear activities in which the Agency is implementing a comprehensive safeguards agreement but which is not implementing the provisions of the modified Code 3.1.”

In November 2023, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Eslami, “made a statement referring to the excavation of the main building of the planned 360-megawatt reactor ‘in the coming days.’”6 In December, the IAEA then observed through analysis of satellite imagery “excavations of the reactor site.” The IAEA wrote a letter to Iran dated February 5, 2024, requesting updated design information for the site, as well as preliminary design information for the “Iran Hormoz” nuclear power plants. It wrote another letter, dated February 20, 2024, reminding Iran that the Subsidiary Arrangements cannot be modified, or their implementation suspended unilaterally by Iran.

Iran continues to repeat its position that the implementation of Modified Code 3.1 is suspended and that “relevant safeguards information for any new facilities… will be provided in due time. Iran illegally reverting to the original Code 3.1 means Iran will only provide notification to the IAEA six months before it introduces nuclear material into a facility, which experience has taught could be when the plant is essentially operational. By violating Modified Code 3.1 with the construction of new nuclear facilities and failing to notify the IAEA or provide design information, Iran is indicating it could also outfit a clandestine enrichment facility, for example, and not notify the IAEA of the plant’s existence until right before it begins operating, if at all. This concern is magnified by Iran’s construction of a new facility in the mountains near Natanz that is deeply buried and could include a new enrichment plant.

Discrepancy at the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF); New Links to Undeclared Uranium at Lavisan-Shian

While the IAEA pressed Iran to resolve a discrepancy in the amount of uranium present at the UCF, the resolution re-opened the question of whether uranium went missing long ago from the JHL.

The discrepancy at the UCF involved the dissolution of what Iran stated was 302.7 kilograms (kg) of natural uranium and an IAEA-verified amount that was less than this. The uranium came from the JHL, the site of undeclared nuclear activities and materials in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The IAEA determined that “the amount of the uranium contained in the solid waste, arising from undeclared conversion experiments between 1995 and 2002, sent from JHL to UCF for dissolution, was less than had been declared by Iran in 2003 - 2004.” JHL has figured prominently in past IAEA efforts to understand the fate of undeclared uranium dating to Amad Plan activities at the Lavisan-Shian site in Tehran (see Annex). According to The Wall Street Journal, the discrepancy was “connected to Iran’s dissolution of a natural uranium metal disc the IAEA has been looking for as part of a probe into undeclared nuclear material found in Iran.”7 This uranium metal disc was used for nuclear weapons development of a neutron initiator in the early 2000s at Lavisan-Shian (See Annex).

In February 2024, Iran provided the Agency with corrected nuclear material accounting reports, leading the IAEA to decide that the discrepancy in the nuclear material balance at the UCF had been rectified. According to the May 2024 report:

The rectification at UCF indicated that the amount of uranium contained in the solid waste sent from JHL to UCF for dissolution was less than had been declared by Iran in 2003- 2004. In a letter to Iran dated 22 May 2024, the Agency informed Iran that as a result of the rectification of the discrepancy at UCF, the Agency assessed that the material balance of the uranium involved in uranium metal production experiments conducted at JHL in 1995-2000 included an amount of nuclear material unaccounted for, which cannot be explained by accountancy measurement errors.

The IAEA also informed Iran that it “continues to evaluate additional complex technical elements related to the uranium metal production experiments.” This is an apparent reference to undeclared metal production and possibly to undeclared activities at Lavisan Shian. It stands as another example of Iran continuing to hide nuclear materials, activities, and locations.

Failure of the Joint Statement

Implementation of the March 2023 IAEA/Iran Joint Statement, whereby Iran pledged to take steps to cooperate with the IAEA, expedite a resolution over the outstanding safeguards issues, and allow the IAEA to implement appropriate verification and monitoring activities, has so far failed.8 The Director General previously reiterated that “following some limited progress towards implementing the Joint Statement of 4 March 2023 in the reporting period March-June 2023, no further progress has been made since.”

Director General Grossi traveled to Iran from May 6 to 7, meeting with senior Iranian officials “with a view to reinvigorating the Joint Statement.” There, Grossi “shared a series of concrete proposals related to each of the three elements of the Joint Statement with a view to making the Joint Statement operational.” Iran agreed only that the Joint Statement provides a framework for cooperation and for addressing outstanding issues. The two sides agreed to schedule follow-up meetings. On May 20, however, the date agreed for discussions, Iran indicated that “due to the special circumstances,” likely the death of Iranian President Raisi, “it was no longer appropriate to hold substantive discussions on that date.” Iran has not yet agreed to a new date for discussions. The IAEA is seriously concerned that Iran has failed to live up to its end of the agreement and questions Iran’s continued commitment to its implementation. It concludes, “There has been no progress in the past year towards implementing the Joint Statement.”


The issues outlined above are just part of a long catalog of Iran’s historical violations of its safeguards agreement, a list matched only by the worst violators of the NPT, such as North Korea and Iraq in the 1980s and early 1990s. As the IAEA continues to investigate Iran’s declarations, it establishes more concrete evidence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities in Iran. Yet, Iran merely becomes more obstinate and non-cooperative.

Due to Iran’s prolonged, ongoing lack of cooperation, the IAEA Board of Governors should pass a resolution condemning Iran’s failure to fully meet the demands spelled out in the November 2022 resolution. The E3 are reportedly circulating a new resolution, which will reportedly raise the matter of directing the IAEA to issue a comprehensive report on outstanding Iran safeguards issues. 9

This action was threatened by the United States at the March 2024 board meeting. 10 However, Washington reportedly has not wanted to pursue a board resolution.11 However, the E3 have grown frustrated with the U.S. approach, which has accomplished little, while Iran continues violating its safeguards agreement, growing its nuclear weapons capabilities, and threatening the IAEA’s credibility.

The United States should wholeheartedly join the E3’s effort to pass their resolution. Otherwise, Washington looks like it is not standing firmly on the side of the IAEA in this standoff. Instead, it looks like it is acting out of fear of provoking Iran before the U.S. presidential election, in spite of seriously undermining the credibility of the IAEA, and ultimately the NPT, one of the most important international treaties and a critical check against the further spread of nuclear weapons.

In fact, the reported E3 resolution is quite moderate. The situation has become so dire that a new resolution should go further. It should provide one last chance, with a deadline, for Iran to meet the board’s demands, after which the board will refer Iran’s case to the UN Security Council. Such a referral would not in any way halt the IAEA’s investigations of Iran’s undeclared materials and activities; in fact, it should encourage IAEA members to provide additional information and resources aimed at assisting the IAEA in pressing Iran to come into compliance with its safeguards obligations.

The IAEA on its own initiative, as it has done in the past, should produce a report that summarizes its understandings and findings about Iran’s past and on-going nuclear weapons program and any nuclear weapons-related materials, equipment, or activities that have continued up to today. While the IAEA’s recent effort to focus primarily on physical locations with undeclared nuclear material is understandable, this amounts to exploring the tip of the iceberg. It is time for the IAEA to expose the entire iceberg and reconstruct the history and nature of all aspects of Iran’s nuclear weapons activities.

Further, non-compliance can trigger specific activities by the Director General and the Board of Governors under the IAEA’s Statute when a country fails to take corrective action “within a reasonable time.” A reasonable person would conclude Iran has had a reasonable time to comply. Under Article XII.C of the Statute, “In the event of failure of the recipient State or States to take fully corrective action within a reasonable time, the Board may take one or both of the following measures: direct curtailment or suspension of assistance being provided by the Agency or by a member, and call for the return of materials and equipment made available to the recipient member or group of members. The Agency may also, in accordance with article XIX, suspend any non-complying member from the exercise of the privileges and rights of membership.” In anticipation of the near futility of additional efforts to convince Iran to rectify its violations and address outstanding demands, yet as a way to provide additional incentives for Iran to come into compliance, it is time for the Director General and/or the board to start invoking the measures specified in, or implied by, the IAEA’s Statute. This may include curtailing IAEA technical assistance, reducing Iran’s privileges at the IAEA, and discouraging member states providing nuclear assistance, whether for nuclear research or nuclear power.

Read the full report with Annex here.

1. Andrea Stricker is deputy director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ (FDD’s) Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program and an FDD research fellow.

2. “Iran Signals It Is Closer to Building Nuclear Weapons,” Iran International, February 12, 2024,

3. Jon Gambrell, “The head of UN’s nuclear watchdog warns Iran is ‘not entirely transparent’ on its atomic program,” The Associated Press, February 13, 2024,

4. “US Slams Iranian Statements About Opting for Nuclear Weapons,” Iran International, May 13, 2024, ; “Iranian Politician Says Tehran Might Already Have Nukes,” Iran International, May 10, 2024,

5. Tzvi Joffre, “Iran Building New Nuclear Power Plant in Southwest of Country,” The Jerusalem Post, December 4, 2022,

6. David Albright and Mohammedreza Giveh, “Darkhovin Nuclear Power Reactor: Another Blemish on Iran’s Safeguards Compliance, Institute for Science and International Security, March 25, 2024,

7. Laurence Norman, “U.N. Agency Confirms Iran Produced Enriched Uranium Close to Weapons Grade,” The Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2023,

8. “Joint Statement by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),” March 4, 2023,

9. Francois Murphy and John Irish, “European Powers Seek Action Against Iran at IAEA Meeting Despite US Concerns,” Reuters, May 29, 2024,

10. “U.S. Statement - Agenda Item 6C - IAEA Board of Governors Meeting - March 2024,” Delivered by Ambassador Laura S.H. Holgate, Vienna, Austria, March 7, 2024,

11. Laurence Norman, “Biden Administration Presses Allies Not to Confront Iran on Nuclear Program,” The Wall Street Journal, May 27, 2024,

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