ISIS Iran Report

JCPOA Exemptions Revealed

David Albright and Andrea Stricker

September 1, 2016

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) placed detailed limitations on facets of Iran’s nuclear program that needed to be met by Implementation Day, which took place on January 16, 2016.  Most of the conditions were met by Iran.*  However, we have learned that some nuclear stocks and facilities were not in accordance with JCPOA limits on Implementation Day, but in anticipation the Joint Commission had earlier and secretly exempted them from the JCPOA limits.  The exemptions and in one case, a loophole, involved the low enriched uranium (LEU) cap of 300 kilograms (kg), some of the near 20 percent LEU, the heavy water cap, and the number of large hot cells allowed to remain in Iran.  One senior knowledgeable official stated that if the Joint Commission had not acted to create these exemptions, some of Iran’s nuclear facilities would not have been in compliance with the JCPOA by Implementation Day.

Recently the Joint Commission created a Technical Working Group to consider further exemptions to Iran’s stock of 3.5 percent low enriched uranium.  This cap is set at 300 kg of LEU hexafluoride but Iran apparently has or could exceed the cap if no further exemptions are granted by the Joint Commission.

The decisions of the Joint Commission have not been announced publicly.  The Obama administration informed Congress of key Joint Commission decisions on Implementation Day but in a confidential manner.  These decisions, which are written down, amount to additional secret or confidential documents linked to the JCPOA.  Since the JCPOA is public, any rationale for keeping these exemptions secret appears unjustified.  Moreover, the Joint Commission’s secretive decision making process risks advantaging Iran by allowing it to try to systematically weaken the JCPOA.  It appears to be succeeding in several key areas.

Given the technical complexity and public importance of the various JCPOA exemptions and loopholes, the administration’s policy to maintain secrecy interferes in the process of establishing adequate Congressional and public oversight of the JCPOA.  This is particularly true concerning potentially agreement-weakening decisions by the Joint Commission.  As a matter of policy, the United States should agree to any exemptions or loopholes in the JCPOA only if the decisions are simultaneously made public. 

View the full report in PDF.

An exclusive story by Reuters appears here.

* The Institute for Science and International Security was neutral on whether or not the JCPOA should be implemented. 

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