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5 Facts about Nuclear Inspections in Iran

By Blaise Misztal, Laura Hall

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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IAEA Nuclear Inspections in Iran

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Nuclear Verification program, the body responsible for ensuring nuclear facilities around the world are used for peaceful purposes, oversees the inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Before the interim deal agreed to by Iran and six world powers in November 2013 and signed in January 2014, known as the Joint Plan of Action (JPA), the IAEA had more than 20 staff dedicated to inspections in Iran, with two to four staff in Iran every day. These inspectors visited the enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow about once a week and other sites less often. The JPA expanded access for inspectors, allowing for daily access to Natanz and Fordow, “managed access” to the Arak heavy water facility, which could be used to make weapons grade plutonium, as well as uranium mines, mills, and centrifuge facilities.

Additional Cost of JPA Allowed Inspections

Inspections are funded by the IAEA’s nuclear verification budget, which comes from contributions from IAEA member countries and currently totals 131 million Euros ($181 million). Naturally, increased access to Iran’s nuclear facilities will demand more resources to pay for additional inspectors, their time and travel. BPC estimates that the cost of carrying out the enhanced inspections permitted by the JPA will be about $9.8 million. These costs were not built into the IAEA’s current budget and – if we are to continue verifying Iran’s compliance with the terms of the interim deal- have to be made up with additional contributions from IAEA member states.

Where does the U.S. contribution to the IAEA come from?

U.S. funding for the IAEA comes in the form of assessed (mandatory) contributions – payment of which is a legal obligation accepted by a country when it joins the IAEA – and voluntary contributions. Assessed contributions come from the State Department’s Contribution to International Organizations (CIO) account. For FY2014, the United States will pay $115,955,000 in assessed contributions to the IAEA; President Obama’s FY2015 request is for $116,319,000. The United States also provides voluntary contributions to the IAEA under section 301 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which states: “when he determines it to be in the national interest, the president is authorized to make vol¬untary contributions on a grant basis to international organizations and to programs administered by such organizations.” U.S. voluntary contributions to the IAEA come from the State Department’s Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining, and Related Programs (NADR) account. In FY2012, the United States paid $85,900,000 in voluntary contributions to the IAEA, $12 million of which was used towards the monitoring of Iranian nuclear programs. The State Department’s Congressional Budget justification requested $88,000,000 in voluntary contributions to the IAEA for FY2014 and $83,600,000 for FY2015.

What have other countries contributed to the shortfall?

During the January 24th meeting in Vienna of the 35 member IAEA Board of Governors, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano outlined the extra costs associated with the additional resources necessary for increased Iranian inspections. Speaking to the representatives present, Amano stated that although the agency was about the find 500,000 Euros in its budget to put toward the cost of additional inspections, “The agency will still need additional extra-budgetary contributions of some 5.5 million Euros ($7.5 million) for the six-month period. I call upon countries which are in a position to do so to make the necessary funding available.”1

There has been a positive response from IAEA members thus far, with Amano reporting that 17 member states expressed interest in contributing to the extra funding needed for the implementation of JPA inspections.

How much money is still needed?

Despite the pledges of support, as of March, the IAEA is still 1.6 million Euros ($2.21 million) short of the amount necessary to conduct all activities related to monitoring Iran’s compliance with the JPA.2

It is important to note that these figures only cover additional inspections for the six month interim deal term specified in the JPA. If the JPA is extended to give negotiators more time to come to a final agreement, as many observers suggest, additional funds will be necessary to cover the extended timeframe.

BPC recommends that the United States, through the congressional appropriations process, increase its support for the IAEA and its role in ensuring Iran’s compliance with the JPA by increasing its voluntary contribution to the IAEA by at least $2.21 million, earmarked for Iranian inspections.

1IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, “Introductory Statement to Board of Governors,” Vienna, Austria, January 24, 2014. Available here.

“Iran Nuclear Deal being Implemented as Planned: Amano,” Tehran Times, March 3, 2014.