Between the IAEA’s first visit to Natanz in 2003 and the JCPOA’s finalization in 2015, the IAEA and its Board of Governors repeatedly found Iran in noncompliance with the CSA for failing to declare key nuclear sites, activities, and material. Iran’s misconduct spurred the international community to seek Iran’s adoption of the AP and ultimately the JCPOA, discussed in subsections (2) and (3) below.
First issued by the IAEA in 1997, the AP “is not a stand-alone agreement,” as the agency puts it,3 but a legally binding addendum to the CSA that parties to the NPT may voluntarily elect to sign. The AP contains strengthened tools to detect and inspect undeclared facilities, materials, and activities. In so doing, the AP fills gaps in the IAEA’s knowledge that may otherwise endure if the agency relied only on a state’s CSA declarations. When a state adopts an AP, the IAEA subsequently regards the state’s CSA and AP as a single document, with the AP simply providing improved methods to implement the CSA’s mandate. Today, the AP has entered into force in 134 countries.4
The AP resulted from the agency’s experience in Iraq, North Korea, and South Africa in the early 1990s, which demonstrated that inspectors lacked significant means to detect undeclared nuclear material and activities in states with CSAs. Thus, notes the IAEA, the AP aims to provide “broader access to information about the State’s nuclear programme, increased physical access by the IAEA and improved administrative arrangements.”5 In IAEA parlance, access provided by a state under an AP, including any relevant information the state provides, is called “complementary access.”6
For states with an AP, the IAEA seeks to reach what it describes as a “broader conclusion that all nuclear material” in the state “remains in peaceful activities.”7 Such a determination typically occurs after a multi-year investigation, at which time the IAEA implements “integrated safeguards.” The agency defines integrated safeguards as “an optimum combination of all safeguards measures available to the IAEA” under the CSA and AP aimed at achieving “maximum effectiveness and efficiency in meeting the IAEA’s safeguards obligations within available resources.” In other words, because the agency has “increased assurance of the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities for the State as a whole, the intensity of inspection activities at declared facilities and LOFS [i.e., locations outside facilities] can be reduced.”8
The IAEA reaches a broader conclusion only for countries that both have signed and have ratified an AP. The agency recertifies the broader conclusion annually.
In states with an AP, the IAEA may continue to request access to any site in the country it deems necessary, including undeclared or military sites. However, in contrast to states that lack an AP, the IAEA need not limit itself to state declarations as the basis of any request for access.