Nuclear Verification in Iran: Managed Access

Palais Coburg, also known as Palais Sachsen-Coburg or Palais Saxe-Coburg. Built 1840-50 for Duke Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha on the Brown Bastion (Braunbastei), which itself dates from 1545-55.
(photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Tariq Rauf

On Tuesday, 7 July 2015, the dance of the dueling cavaliers continued below the chandeliers and above the cellars that boast 60,000 bottles – one of the largest stocks of Mouton Rothschild, Château Yquem and Pétrus in the world – of the neo-classical Palais Saxe-Coburg (Palais Coburg) in Vienna (Austria, Europe). The principal players, Iran and the United States slogged ahead on finalizing a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on limiting the proliferation potential of Iran’s nuclear programme and the rescinding of Western and United Nations sanctions. China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, Germany and the European Union played both disruptive and supporting roles

The 7 July deadline was extended to 9 July and the talks continued with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and their teams tried to overcome their remaining differences. These concerned Iran’s determination to reverse UN Security Council sanctions on its non-nuclear military and defence programmes. Apparently, the Western States remain adamantly opposed but China and Russia supported Iran’s position while France wavered. Many of the foreign ministers left Vienna in the late afternoon and are scheduled to return on Friday, 10 July, to wrap up the JCPOA – which will be worked on in the interim by the ‘plumbers’ otherwise referred to as lawyers, nuclear and arms control experts.

Nuclear Verification: Managed Access

In accordance with the key parameters of a JCPOA decided in Lausanne between Iran and the EU/E3+3 on 2 April 2015, Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement and to cooperate with the IAEA to resolve questions regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme. Furthermore, pursuant to the 24 November 2013 joint Plan of Action (JPA) has been providing ‘managed access’ to the IAEA to some of its nuclear facilities. These include the uranium mine and mill at Gchine, the Saghand Uranium Mine, the Ardakan Uranium Production Plant, centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities.

The Additional Protocol to Iran’s comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA includes provisions for Iran to provide ‘managed access’ upon request by the Agency to prevent the dissemination of proliferation sensitive information, to meet safety or physical protection requirements, or to protect proprietary or commercially sensitive information. In the drafting of the Additional Protocol, the IAEA Board of Governors took into account the arrangements for the investigation of sites of possible undeclared facilities drawing on the elements (including the ‘managed access’ provisions) contained in Part X of the Verification Annex to the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

In practice, in order for the IAEA to come up with an “assessment” report on the PMD as indicated by the IAEA Director General, Iran will be required to provide ‘managed access’ to certain military sites such as Parchin to enable the Agency to determine whether or not prohibited nuclear military activities were carried out.

In order to ensure the rights and obligations of both the IAEA and Iran, any ‘managed access’ carried out at military and other sites deemed to be of national security significance by Iran, should be in accordance with mutually agreed procedures and practices.

At present there are no procedures and practices pertaining to ‘managed access’ by the IAEA that have been duly approved by the Agency’s Board of Governors and Member States. As such, the following methodologies could be considered for ‘managed access’ in Iran.

Pre-access briefing and inspection plan 

The purpose and mandate of the ‘managed access’ should be agreed in advance between the Agency and Iran.

To facilitate development of a plan for ‘managed access’ at a site or location, Iran should provide a safety and logistical briefing to the IAEA inspection team prior to the ‘managed access’. The pre-inspection briefing may indicate to the IAEA inspection team the equipment, documentation, or areas Iran considers sensitive and not related to the purpose of the ‘managed access’ along with a justification. In addition, personnel responsible for the site or location should brief the IAEA inspection team on the physical layout and other relevant characteristics of the site or location. The IAEA inspection team should be provided with a map or sketch drawn to scale showing all structures and significant geographic features at the site relevant to the purpose of the ‘managed access’.

After the pre-inspection briefing, the IAEA inspection team could prepare, on the basis of the information available to it, an initial inspection plan which specifies the activities to be carried out by the inspection team, including the specific areas of the site to which ‘managed access’ is requested. The inspection plan also should specify whether the inspection team will be divided into sub-groups. The inspection plan shall be made available to the representatives of the inspection site.

Iran can designate the perimeter entry/exit points to be used for access. The IAEA inspection team and Iran’s escort team could negotiate: the extent of access to any particular place or places within the final and requested perimeters; the particular ‘managed access’ activities, including non-destructive sampling, to be conducted by the IAEA inspection team; the performance of particular supporting activities by Iran; and the provision of particular information by Iran


To help establish that the inspection site to which the inspection team has been transported corresponds to the inspection site specified by the IAEA, the inspection team should have the right to use commercially available location finding equipment and to have such equipment inspected by Iran to ensure that its characteristics and capabilities are as declared by the IAEA. The IAEA inspection team may verify its location by reference to local landmarks identified from maps and satellite imagery, and Iran should assist the inspection team in this task.

In addition, the IAEA may use equipment from its suite of safeguards technology and equipment.


Only inspectors duly ‘designated’ by Iran could be allowed to go on ‘managed access’. The size of the IAEA inspection team should be kept to a minimum necessary for the proper fulfilment of the inspection mandate.

Protective Measures

Iran could take measures to protect sensitive installations and prevent disclosure of confidential information and data not related to the nuclear fuel cycle. Such measures may include, inter alia: (a) removal of sensitive documents from office spaces; (b) shrouding of sensitive displays, stores, and equipment; (c) shrouding of sensitive pieces of equipment, such as military, communications, engineering, computer or electronic systems; (d) logging off of computer systems and turning off of data indicating devices; (e) restriction of sample analysis to presence or absence of nuclear material; (f) using random selective access techniques whereby the inspectors are requested to select a given percentage or number of buildings of their choice to inspect; the same principle can apply to the interior and content of sensitive buildings; (g) In exceptional cases, giving only individual inspectors access to certain parts of the inspection site.


The IAEA inspection team would be free to collect environmental samples according to Agency procedures and practices, but Iran would be free to photograph or videotape the taking of environmental samples and provide a copy of the media to the Agency. A duly sealed duplicate bag of environmental samples could be left under IAEA containment and surveillance (C/S) measures at its field office in Iran to be used in the event of any dispute over the findings of the sample analysis.


Iran would be expected to make every reasonable effort to demonstrate to the IAEA inspection team that any object, building, structure, container or vehicle to which the inspection team has not had full access, or which has been protected or shrouded, is not used for purposes related to the possible non-compliance concerns raised in the inspection request. This may be accomplished by means of, inter alia, the partial removal of a shroud or environmental protection cover, at the discretion of Iran, by means of a visual inspection of the interior of an enclosed space from its entrance, or by other methods.

Post-access Activities

Upon completion of the ‘managed access’ procedures at the inspection site, the IAEA inspection team should be taken promptly to a point of site entry/exit.

An inspection report could summarize in a general way the activities conducted by the IAEA inspection team and the factual findings of the inspection team. It could also include an assessment by the inspection team of the degree and nature of access and cooperation granted to the inspectors and the extent to which this enabled them to fulfil the inspection mandate.

Iran should have the right to identify any information and data not related to nuclear fuel cycle activities which should, in its view, due to its confidential character, not be circulated beyond specific experts of the IAEA Iran Task Force and should not be included in the reports of the Director General nor provided in confidential briefings to any IAEA Member State.


In accordance with Iran’s safeguards obligations, Iran is obliged to provide ‘managed access’ to the IAEA at sites and locations requested by the Agency

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. However, under ‘managed access’ there is scope for negotiations between the Agency and Iran on a case-by-case basis. ‘Managed access’ may be defined as the arrangements made by the inspected State to protect sensitive installations and confidential information not related to the purpose of the access, while still granting limited access to inspectors to conduct verification activities or providing alternative means to demonstrate compliance. As such, Iran would be within its rights to take the following measures: (a) shrouding of sensitive displays, stores, and equipment; (b) restricting the taking of samples to determining the presence or absence of nuclear material relevant to the purpose of the access; (c) managing access to buildings and other structures; and (d) declaring restricted-access sites.

The IAEA would have the right to request ‘managed access’ to any site or location specified by it to carry out location-specific environmental sampling, to conduct safeguards activities necessary to provide credible assurance of the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities, including the resolution of a question relating to the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declaration pursuant to Article 2 of its Additional Protocol or of an inconsistency relating to that information.

In the end, it is in the interest of Iran to facilitate regular safeguards implementation including ‘managed access’ by the IAEA to enable the Agency to provide credible assurance regarding the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.