Rafael Grossi
Rafael Grossi Reuters

The new head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations’ atomic watchdog, said on Tuesday the agency is still waiting for information from Iran on the discovery of uranium particles at a site near Tehran.

Speaking to The Associated Press in his first day as head of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi said that the organization has been “in conversation” with Iran about the discovery and that it is “not a closed matter.”

“The process continues,” he said. “We have so far not received an entirely satisfactory reply from them, but the exchanges continue.”

The site in question is believed to be the Turquzabad facility which was identified by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his address before the UN General Assembly last year as a "secret atomic warehouse."

Reports in April indicated that the IAEA had inspected the secret atomic warehouse. Subsequent reports said the facility was found to contain traces of uranium.

In November, the IAEA said in a report that its inspectors had "detected natural uranium particles of anthropogenic origin at a location in Iran not declared to the agency". Later that month, the UN agency urged Iran to explain the presence of uranium particles at the site.

Responding to criticism that the IAEA dragged its feet in the investigation, Grossi acknowledged that the matter is urgent because samples can degrade.

“The timely response to our questions is very important,” he told AP.

Grossi, a 58-year-old Argentine diplomat, succeeded Yukiya Amano, who died in July. He takes over for a four-year term at a time when the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers is unraveling.

Iran has gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal in response to US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement last May.

The IAEA recently confirmed that Iran breached another limit of its 2015 nuclear deal with major powers by accumulating slightly more than 130 tons of heavy water.

Before the heavy water breach, the Islamic Republic restarted uranium enrichment at the underground Fordow facility in violation of the deal.

Despite the recent unrest in Iran over rising fuel prices, Grossi told AP his agency’s inspectors have still been able to carry out their work, and Iran has been providing access to nuclear facilities.

“There have been certain issues, but we have been working reasonably well. Necessary precautions are imposed because of the situation but we are working,” he said.

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