(March 20-22 to 2022 2022Israel Hayom) International Atomic Energy Agency director-general Rafael Grossi is juggling a busy schedule in the present. As world leaders prepare to agree to a new nuclear agreement with Iran and Russia seeking to destroy the nuclear power plants located in Ukraine, Grossi struggles to keep the balance of nuclear power in the world.
Grossi, 61, realizes that he is walking between two very delicate lines, and also between mysterious explosions in sensitive locations located in Iran and the ayatollah’s deceit and ayatollah regime’s subterfuge, the IAEA chief is in the middle of the shadow conflict between Jerusalem as well as Tehran.
Q: Let’s start with the February. 24, Russian attack on Ukraine and the Ukraine region, where half the energy used is generated by nuclear power reactors. This includes Chernobyl which was the site of the biggest nuclear accident ever recorded by humans in 1986. The plant is in Russian control, and its inspectors were reportedly abducted, and there isn’t any source of information to keep track of the situation.
The answer is: This is a quite unusual scenario because of the war [in Ukrainein Ukraine. It’s a long-standing precedent of a war involving military forces occurs in a geographic area with 15 nuclear reactors as well as several nuclear facilities. It is a situation I’ve described as one that causes grave concerns, particularly in relation to two facilities, and any other thing that could happen in the other facilities.
You have mentioned the issue in Chernobyl which is a power plant which doesn’t produce electricity. The reactors in Chernobyl are off the grid and there is a very careful work to fix … the reactor four–the one that was famously had an accident in the year 1986. The issue we face — I would be correct and claim that technically inspectors weren’t abducted, but it is an area which is under the supervision and supervision of Russian military forces. It is extremely difficult for them (IAEA inspectorsto switch shifts for instance this is something they must do, so it is an extremely unusual situation.
… The station has problems regarding the flow of information. There is some information about the environment about radiation levels and there were issues during times when the station was not receiving power. There was a 24-36 hours delay until the issue was solved.
Q: Let’s pay focus towards Iran and its relationship with the IAEA in which you sit. Since time immemorial, there’s issues of transparency surrounding Iran’s nuclear program. These are issues that persist until today. In the year 2019, IAEA inspectors found traces of uranium at two sites that had not been reported. As of today the questions you have asked us haven’t been addressed. Do you have any further information on this issue as well as Iran’s reaction to it?
Q: Well, this is a procedure that has been ongoing for quite a while. I was appointed director general at the close of the year and began the mission by taking a precise, direct and clear approach towards Iran and this situation must not be allowed to continue as it is. If you’re following the Iranian situation, you may recall that I requested access to physical locations in a variety of locations and was denied initially.
It was a very stressful situation. I was forced to travel to Iran. I’m talking about the previous administration under the leadership that of president [Hassan] Rouhani as well as Foreign Minister MohammedIsmail] Javad Zarif. I was able resolve the issue, and we gained access. There is an election of the government, however, the process hasn’t yielded positive results.
This should be cause for anxiety because, as you stated we discovered traces of enriched uranium. This is the uranium has gone through an extremely precise process from an unreported location in which nuclear material shouldn’t be found. Therefore, our concerns to Iran were extremely easy, straightforward and clear in that if there is nuclear material in this area and where was it located? If it was used to make equipment in the area, where did it go, and what did they do with it? We don’t have any evidence of it. This led to a frustrating and a looping series of answers and questions that I found technically incredulous and ultimately eventually led to a point into an impasse.
When this discussion was happening there was another emerging in Vienna similar to two lines of parallel that were merging in negotiations with Iran as well as the other six power, which in 2015 were incorporated into an all-encompassing agreement, overseen and supervised by IAEA. The agreement was never working and was in force but was not strictly enforced. The Trump administration likely remembers it, unilaterally resigned from the agreement in the year 2018. Iran continued to be a part of it for a short period of time and at some time also started to withdraw from the nuclear controls in the agreement.
These processes, as well as the IAEA investigation process that I am in charge of and the talks that have been restarted together with Biden administration of the United States, have been moving towards a very simple conclusion for all participants. It is also certain that real progress of the IAEA investigation would have been in place to ease the process of discussions on a new [nuclear agreement] and to reach an acceptable conclusion.
Let me say it this way: It is difficult to imagine anyone will be able to reach an agreement similar to the currently in place JCPOA in the event that talks with the IAEA during the second negotiation remain in deadlock.
“I don’t suspect anyone but I would like to keep an eye on everything’
I recently traveled to Iran and had lengthy discussions with the Foreign Minister, [Hossein AmirAbdollahian], and came to an agreement regarding how we can work starting from today. This should be made clear because some foreign media were misled, declaring that “there’s an agreement with Iran” (over a suspicious itemthat is deemed to be suspicious.
There is no agreement on the substance. We do have an agreement about the method that a possible clarification on these issues can be reached and we are currently working towards getting there. In the coming week, as we the two sides agreed on last week at Tehran, Iran will provide us with the first “block” of data that we can look it over and, in this manner will get to the point I would like to know: the truth of the issue. Much is dependent on the outcome of this collaboration.
Q Do you have a more detailed explanation of the things that Iranians responded to your questions? What was Iran’s precise response to the trace evidence discovered?
Answer: There are many interesting and intriguing technical problems to solve. To keep it simple and not get deep into the technicalities of the matter I’d say that the explanations we received aren’t technically sound, which means that the explanations that we were given concerning the existence of those particles aren’t believable.
Q: Since you took office in December of this year, you have taken on an extremely active and active job. In light of the activities Iran does, can believe that their nuclear program is peaceful one?
The answer is: Look, I believe that, in my position the ability to judge intentions is very difficult that is almost impossible. What I want is Iran to cooperate together with us and give us all the answers we require. In an orderly manner–and because I am the representative of an international organization, I have to always be unbiased–I don’t believe in anyone, but I do want to keep an eye on every aspect. I must be in charge of all things. So, when some people claim, “No, Iran will not possess nuclear weapons as it violates the Islamic edict of the religion I am in agreement with that however, they must show it.
In the same way it is true that there are those who believe, “I’m sure Iran is making a bomb,” we’re in need of evidence, which is why the IAEA exists to draw a fair technically precise and exact line. I’ve previously mentioned my strategy. think this is the method that needs to be followed.
The group should be consistent in its efforts because, as I stated earlier, to come to an JCPOA agreement, or even a deal with Iran I think the following countries: Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Moscow or Beijing according to the powers are involved, would prefer to insist on and demand in the event of an agreement with such significant dimensions with Iran and Iran, there is no ambiguity and nothing will be hidden from the country.
Therefore, I’ll tell you what I did to Iran. I made it clear to them was: If you wish to achieve normality, you must be transparent. In the absence of transparency, it will be absolutely impossible. My approach is positiveand is constructive, however it’s also very rigorous.
Q: We are aware that, for instance, Iran’s enrichment levels for uranium exceed the requirements of the JCPOA and you have stated the IAEA inspectors from Iran were hounded. Do you have any further details about that?
The answer: There were some difficult times. My inspectors are mine and I am responsible to safeguard them. There were instances during the last few months where inspectors were mistreated. I reacted very strongly in a clear and public manner, and I believe it led to the situation returning to normal as quickly as possible. There hasn’t been any incident of inappropriate or unprofessional conduct with the inspectors I have dealt with since. However I think that this [the intimidation] was designed to be an additional aspect that was psychological in opposition to the inspectors’ job.
What’s important is the technical responses that we are yet to receive on the technical questions that we asked. You spoke of enrichment levels … Additionally, I made reference to it since I’m very clear and I dealt with these matters in a very direct manner. I have said: A country that enriches uranium to a level of 60%, which practically speaking is military-grade–maybe you can do that but it is essential to have a very active, very robust IAEA presence there.
Thus, it is an important aspect to consider. Should the JCPOA is revived and this enrichment process will be disrupted since under the terms of the agreement, Iranare able to enrich themselves up to 3.67 percent but not 60 percent. This is a significant distinction. The JCPOA can restore the fantastic oversight capabilities that we’ve lost.
I’d like to highlight that our inspectors work in Iran all year round all day, every day, however the JCPOA is, as you are aware gives the IAEA to carry out a wider array of operations than the regular oversight agreements.
Q: Let’s say that something occurs in the next few days or weeks , and the nuclear deal has not been agreed upon. What’s the length of time does the IAEA think it will take Iran to enhance uranium until it reaches the military-grade level and maybe create an nuclear bomb?
A: Here it is vital to highlight the distinction in terminology especially for the audience in Israel where the subject regarding “nuclear breakthrough” or the capability to achieve the minimum levels for nuclear weapons development is frequently discussed in the public sphere, as well as for the international community.
It is important to differentiate between two crucial aspects that are: one can be the likelihood of building up nuclides in a specific amount, the other is the possibility of possessing nuclear weapons. Between these two, there’s an option that is either short or long, based on the capabilities of technology the country acquires when it attempts to obtain nuclear weapons without authorization.
When we talk about the quantity (of enriched uranium) … The truth is that I believe that the numbers in themselves are substantial, but you require more than a specific amount as you can find many other countries with similar quantities due to the fact that they are nuclear-armed, like Ukraine as an example. It’s not about the quantity of enriched uranium they have or how much plutonium can create, but rather the capacity of these nations to quantify each gram of what they possess that is, the best way for them to accomplish this is to adhere to the oversight that is the responsibility of the IAEA.
Do you have a sense of Israel’s concerns over Iranian nuclear programs? Iranian Nuclear program?
Q: Of course. In the beginning I’d like to acknowledge that I was honored to have a conversation with Israeli PM Naftali Bennett on these matters as well as with the leaders of other countries too.
As you can imagine, the subject of Iran or the issue of North Korea, Iraq, Syria and Iraq, the current situation taking place in Ukraine and what the agency is doing is of particular interest for heads of state and obviously in Israel because , as you can see there is a need for change throughout the Middle East, the issue of nuclear weapons and the creation the use of nuclear weapons have always been a worry. Thus, I fully comprehend the issues that are causing concern and my responsibility as the chief of the IAEA is to provide an explanation of the current situation.
I observed in the premier an extremely sophisticated and knowledgeable interlocutor who is aware of the issues with Iran well. As I’ve said that there is a dialogue open with him, and we’ll keep on it naturally.
Q: If you’re allowed Let’s look at the possibility of a less optimistic scenario. Do you believe might be the outcome should Israel decides to strike Iranian nuclear installations?
A It is my hope that this will never happen. In the first place as a diplomatic professional with over 40 years of experience that is dedicated to peace and security in the world. I am a firm believer in diplomacy, talks, and believe that there always is an option to avoid the possibility of war. I’d like to point out that any attack against the nuclear facilities is illegal by international law. I know you’re talking in terms of theoretical but I think this is something that shouldn’t be allowed to occur.
Second, I’d like to convey, not only to Israel but as well to the entire international community that the IAEA has the required strong and objective tools to ensure that there is no proliferating nuclear weapon. That’s why the backing from all members of the organisation is vital for us. The strength of the IAEA comes by the energy the members of the organization contribute to it.
That’s why I found the discussion I had with the Prime Minister Bennett just a few days ago very satisfying. For us, it’s essential. The fact that we can support the international community in these historical times, with a lot of uncertainty and it is the case that countries would like to purchase current nuclear weapons is something I consider as crucial.
The complete conversation with International Atomic Energy Agency Director Rafael Grossi will air on i24NEWS on the 20th of March around 8.30 p.m. Israel time.
The article first was published in Israel Hayom.