Iran Nuclear Stockpile Is An Estimate After Country Restricted Inspections, UN Watchdog Says

Iran's nuclear stockpile can only be estimated after the country restricted inspections of its nuclear facilities in late February, the United Nations' (U.N.) atomic watchdog said Monday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a confidential report to member countries about monitoring Iran's nuclear program that revealed the country's restrictive measures went beyond limiting access to surveillance cameras at nuclear facilities, the Associated Press reported.

The IAEA wrote that since February 23, it has "not had access to the data from its online enrichment monitors and electronic seals, or had access to the measurement recordings registered by its installed measurement devices," the report obtained by the Associated Press said.

Due to the restrictive measures, the IAEA acknowledged it is unable to determine the exact strength of Iran's nuclear stockpile.

Iran's restrictions on inspections was an effort to pressure President Joe Biden to lift U.S. reimposed sanctions after former President Donald Trump exited Iran's 2015 nuclear deal in 2018 aimed at keeping the country from obtaining an atomic bomb by preventing it from amassing a uranium stockpile.

Around 2,000 tamper-proof seals were placed on nuclear equipment and materials by the IAEA under the deal, according to the Associated Press.

Now, talks have been occurring in Vienna, discussing the potential for the U.S. to rejoin the deal called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The talks are aimed at getting sanctions relief for Iran from the U.S. in exchange for Iran limiting its enrichment of uranium.

Iran told the IAEA it will enrich uranium to the highest level ever at up to 60 percent purity in mid-April, the agency told the Associated Press.

Shahrokh Nazemi, head of the media office at Iran's permanent mission to the U.N., previously told Newsweek that Iran wants to arrive at a "good agreement" on steps the U.S. needs to take to return to the JCPOA.

"In so doing, we are in no rush to agree on something that is imperfect," Nazemi said amid the fifth round of talks in Vienna.

Iran has previously threatened to cease cooperation with the IAEA.

"As we have said on numerous occasions, as soon as the U.S. lifts its sanctions in accordance with its JCPOA obligations, and that is fully verified, Iran will immediately return to its JCPOA obligations," Nazemi also said.

On May 24, the IAEA announced it had agreed with Iran to extend a deadline on the agency's "necessary verification and monitoring activities" in the country by one month.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the JCPOA Wednesday with Israel's Channel 12 about what has occurred since the U.S. left the deal.

"Now that we're out of the deal, Iran has started to ignore the constraints that the deal imposed. And it is closer and closer and closer to being able to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon on very short order," Blinken said. "And so far from getting less dangerous without the deal, it's gotten more dangerous."

Newsweek reached out to IAEA for additional comments and a spokesperson said that the IAEA's Monday report was not made public.

Nuclear Power Plant in Iran
A picture taken on November 10, 2019, shows an Iranian flag in Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, during an official ceremony to kick-start works on a second reactor at the facility. The U.N's International Atomic Energy Agency said that since Iran has been restricting inspections of its nuclear facilities, their nuclear stockpile could not be estimated. Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images