The independent resource on global security

Nuclear verification in Iran: managed access

Under the crystal chandeliers and above the well-stocked wine cellars of the Palais Coburg in Vienna, the dance of the duelling cavaliers goes on. The principal players, Iran and the United States, continue to feint and parry as they attempt to finalize 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, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and representatives from the European Union (EU) watch on, playing both disruptive and supporting roles.

The 7 July deadline expired without a breakthrough but the parties agreed to an extension, allowing the talks to continue until the end of today (10 July). US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and their teams must now try to overcome their remaining differences. The major hurdle concerns Iran’s determination to reverse UN Security Council sanctions on its non-nuclear military and defence programmes. Apparently, the Western states, with the exception of France, are adamantly opposed, but China and Russia are supportive of Iran’s position; France appears to be wavering. Many of the foreign ministers left Vienna in the late afternoon on July 7 and are scheduled to return today to wrap up the JCPOA, which will have been worked on in the interim by the ‘plumbers’—in other words lawyers and nuclear and arms control experts.

Managed access

In accordance with the key parameters of the JCPOA decided in Lausanne, Switzerland, between Iran and the E3/EU+3 (a group composed of representatives from the EU plus France, Germany and the UK, along with China, Russia and the USA), Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol to its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safeguards Agreement and to cooperate with the IAEA to resolve questions regarding possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme.(note 1) Furthermore, pursuant to the 24 November 2013 Joint Plan of Action (JPA), Iran has been providing ‘managed access’ to the IAEA to some of its nuclear facilities.(note 2)

The Additional Protocol includes provisions for Iran to provide managed access upon request by the IAEA to prevent the dissemination of proliferation-sensitive information, to meet safety or physical protection requirements, or to protect proprietary or commercially sensitive information, while not impairing the IAEA to carry out its verification activities.(note 3) 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 Chemical Weapons Convention.(note 4)

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

Pre-access briefing and plan of work

The purpose and mandate of the managed access should be agreed in advance between the IAEA 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 team prior to the managed access. The pre-access briefing may indicate to the IAEA team the equipment, documentation, or areas Iran considers sensitive and not related to the purpose of the managed access, along with a justification.

The IAEA 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 team; the performance of required supporting activities by Iran; and the provision of all relevant information by Iran.


The IAEA would be permitted to use equipment from its suite of safeguards technology and verification equipment.


Only inspectors duly designated by Iran would be permitted to undertake managed access.(note 5) The size of the IAEA team should be kept to a minimum necessary for the proper fulfilment of the access mandate.

Protective Measures

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


The IAEA team would be free to collect environmental samples according to IAEA safeguards 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 IAEA. A duly sealed authenticated duplicate bag of environmental samples could be left under IAEA containment and surveillance measures at its field office in Iran to be used in the event of any dispute over the findings of the sample analysis.

Post-access activities

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

A post-access report could summarize in a general way the activities conducted by the IAEA team and the interim factual findings of the team. It could also include an assessment by the IAEA 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 mandate of the managed access.

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 its safeguards obligations, Iran is obliged to provide managed access to the IAEA at sites and locations determined by the IAEA. However, under managed access there is scope for negotiations between the IAEA and Iran on a case-by-case basis to determine the nature and extent of the access.

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, and to conduct activities necessary to provide credible assurance of the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. Under such an arrangement, the IAEA could seek to resolve questions relating to the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declaration pursuant to Article 2 of its Additional Protocol or an inconsistency relating to that information.(note 6)

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



Note 1: US Department of State, Office of the Spokesperson, ‘Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program’, Media note, 2 Apr. 2015, <>.
Note 2: International Atomic Energy Agency, Board of Governors, ‘Status of Iran’s nuclear programme in relation to the Joint Plan of Action’, Report by the Director General, GOV/INF/2015/12, 1 July 2015. For a list of nuclear facilities in Iran, see Rauf, T. and Kelley, R., ‘Nuclear verification in Iran’, Arms Control Today, Sep. 2014.
Note 3: International Atomic Energy Agency, Model Protocol Additional to the Agreement(s) between State(s) and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Application of Safeguards, INFCIRC/540 (Corrected), Article 7(a).
Note 4: The recommendations were presented to the Board in ‘Strengthening the effectiveness and efficiency of the safeguards system: report by the Director General on SAGSI’s re examination of safeguards implementation’, GOV/2657, 14 May 1993. A summary of the SAGSI [Standing Advisory Group on Safeguards Implementation] report was included as an attachment. Reactions were recorded in IAEA documents GOV/OR.815 and 816, where board members voiced their general support for the direction of SAGSI’s conclusions. Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (Chemical Weapons Convention, CWC), opened for signature 13 Jan. 1993, entered into force 29 Apr. 1997.
Note 5: Under IAEA safeguards agreements, States have the right to accept or reject designations of inspectors, IAEA, INFCIRC/153 (Corr.), Article 9.
Note 6: International Atomic Energy Agency, INFCIRC/540 (Corrected) (note 3), Articles 5 and 7.


Tariq Rauf is the Director of the Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Programme.