Side deal cuts Iran’s breakout time in half in little more than a decade

Key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program will ease in slightly more than a decade, cutting in half the time Iran would need to build nuclear weapons.

The AP reported on Monday that it had obtained a document from a source inside the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna — a document which was the only secret portion to last year’s agreement between Iran and the P5+1 powers. The Hill reports that the document said that after a period of between eleven to thirteen years, Iran could replace its 5,060 older, and inefficient, centrifuges with up to 3,500 advanced centrifuges.

Experts note that these advanced centrifuges are five times as efficient as the older centrifuges, thus cutting the breakout time – that is, the time Iran would need to make a nuclear weapon — from one year to about six months.

U.S. and Western intelligence services have said that Iran currently has no plan to produce a weapon.

The centrifuge replacement provision appears to be part of the deal’s “sunset clause,” Omri Ceren of The Israel Project, a pro-Israel group campaigning against the nuclear agreement, told the Hill.

Critics of the agreement told lawmakers that limits on Iran’s centrifuge research and development were too weak even during the first ten years of the agreement, but whether or not one agrees with that assessment, there is little doubt that the centrifuge replacement clause would allow Iran, once it has replaced the old centrifuges with the more advanced ones, to rush toward the bomb if it so decided.

The Hill notes that David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said as much in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 25 June 2015, one month before the nuclear deal was finalized.  

“No bans exist on Iran’s research and development of the IR-6 and IR-8 centrifuges, the latter of which is up to sixteen times more powerful than the IR-1 centrifuge,” he said.

“Failing to achieve such bans, the interim agreement does not appear to mitigate the risks of Iran being able to deploy these more powerful centrifuges after year 13, other than some negotiators stating that they believe that Iran will have trouble actually deploying them in the future,” he said.

For more on Nuclear weapons, Iran, Nonproliferation

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