The United Nations agency charged with watching global nuclear activities may be forced to backtrack on its claim of just how much nuclear material it says is missing in Iran. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had previously said 19.8kg were missing from the Tehran nuclear facility, Jabr Ibn Hayan Multipurpose Research Laboratory (JHL), but now says the actual amount missing is probably significantly less.
The IAEA previously said the 19.8kg missing was from a count from the Tehran nuclear facility and used an Iranian count as the baseline then counted the material itself coming up 19.8kg short. The agency then issued a discrepancy report to which Iran responded by saying it was "absolutely not an issue".
The United States, European nations and Israel fear nuclear material may have been diverted for secret military development, though Iran disputes this saying their nuclear ambitions are purely for peaceful nuclear energy, something Iran has claimed repeatedly is within their right.
But the details of the exact discrepany would only become clear in the IAEA's next quarterly report on Iran's disputed nuclear program, expected towards the end of August.
"I've heard that the agency could be revising the figure lower," another diplomat said, referring to the report prepared ahead of a September 10-14 meeting of the U.N. agency's 35-nation board, when Iran is again likely to dominate the agenda.
Defense experts say that little amount of nuclear material could not be used to make a nuclear bomb.
Based on the IAEA's previous report, western nations moved to enact more sanctions on Iran, because that report claimed Iran had more missing material and that it was making efforts to develop a weapon.
Iran has suggested the discrepancy may have been caused by a higher amount of uranium in the waste than had been measured by the U.N. inspectors.
The IAEA said in May that Iran had offered to process the waste material and extract the uranium, but that the agency had offered an alternative way to address the problem.