Report - Institute for Science and International Security

IAEA Visit to the Parchin Site

| September 22, 2015

On September 21, 2015, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano informed the Board of Governors that one day earlier he had visited a suspect site within the Parchin Military Complex in Iran. A few days prior to Director General Amano’s visit, as foreseen in an unofficial draft Iran/IAEA agreement, Iran, under IAEA inspectors’ direction but not physical presence, took environmental samples at the suspect location. Amano said in a public statement that access to the site was important in order to “clarify issues related to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program.” The building is suspected of being the location of tests involving work on nuclear weapons that were conducted several years ago. Iran has denied IAEA access to this specific site in the northern part of the military complex since access was first requested in 2011. Subsequently, it extensively modified the site. Thus, IAEA access to the site is a step in the right direction. In addition to an examination of the characteristics of the building and any equipment inside it, the taking of environmental samples plays a key role in IAEA investigations to establish the nature of any experiments or tests, and whether uranium, or its surrogate materials such as tungsten, were present. However, the manner in which environmental samples were taken raises troubling precedents for both the IAEA’s investigation into Iran’s past work on nuclear weapons and the verifiability of the long term nuclear deal, the Joint Compreheansive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The IAEA did not reveal any specific details of the sampling arrangment, whereby the IAEA directed the taking of environmental samples inside the key building of interest or possibly at other locations at the site. It is known that the process of taking samples was videotaped by the Iranians with IAEA direction and control. However, the media reporting was unclear regarding whether the video taping was done in real-time, i.e. with a live feed to IAEA inspectors located elsewhere, or was accomplished by the Iranians and the digital files then given to the inspectors for analysis, review, and subsequent action, which could have involved additional videotaping. In this case, the inspectors may have first received videos taken inside the suspect building. After reviewing the videos, the inspectors would have instructed the Iranians where to take the samples, a process also videotaped by the Iranians Afterwards, the Iranians would have presented the new videos and samples to the IAEA. However, what actually happened remains unknown publicly.

The full text of the article including footnotes may be downloaded below.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Albright, David, Olli Heinonen, Serena Kelleher-Vergantini. “IAEA Visit to the Parchin Site.” Institute for Science and International Security, September 22, 2015.

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