Iran’s breakout time under the emerging deal would be far less than the Obama administration’s estimate of one year, according to Alan J. Kuperman, associate professor and coordinator of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project at the University of Texas in Austin. Writing in The New York Times, Kuperman argues that under the framework reached in Lausanne, the actual breakout time – the time needed to accrue enough enriched uranium for one nuclear weapon – would be approximately three months. A former deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Olli Heinonen, has similarly stated that under the emerging deal, Iran’s breakout time would be less than a year, arguing that the US may have underestimated the capacity of Iran’s IR-1 centrifuges. Additionally, since Iran is allowed to continue centrifuge R&D during the deal, which will allow it to develop more advanced centrifuges that can enrich uranium more efficiently, breakout times in later years would “shrink drastically.” The Obama administration has consistently argued that the deal will push back the breakout time from a current 2-3 months to one year.
Kuperman indicates that it’s problematic that Iran will be able to keep 14,000 excess centrifuges in the country rather than destroying or exporting them, as they could be deployed to build a nuclear weapon in the future. David Albright, a scientist and president of the Institute for Science and International Security, echoes this concern, arguing, “The centrifuges in excess of a limit should ideally be destroyed. Otherwise, Iran could re-install them, building back to its original enrichment capacity…This restoration of capacity would lead to very short breakout times, far less than a year.”
In a recent report, Albright wrote that more than half of Iran’s near 20% enrichment stockpile will be in the form of scrap which “Iran would be expected to seek to recover much of…for conversion into usable uranium oxide.” The stockpile is also in fuel form, from which enriched uranium could also be extracted “in significantly less than one year.” The reversibility of both of these forms could significantly reduce the duration of breakout time.
If the US Administration hoped that Mr Herzog might dilute Israel’s visceral suspicion of an imminent nuclear deal with Iran, however, then he seems likely to disappoint. …“There is no difference between me and Netanyahu in reading the threat of Iran. There is no daylight between us on this issue at all,” said Mr Herzog. “I do not oppose the diplomatic process. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We want to know ‘what is the deal?’ What’s the best deal possible that can be reached and would it change the region in a better direction? And here we are worried.” …
“There are some issues that must be improved substantially and we are waiting to see. I’m actually worried that they won’t be fully met,” he said. “One is inspections: it has to be clear that the inspection chapter includes the ability to have thorough, immediate inspections of all installations, 24/7. There are rumours of some vagueness. I’m extremely worried. I think that’s the main tool to enable the agreement.”
During the election campaign earlier this year, Herzog wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times warning of the dangers of a nuclear Iran:
[A] nuclear Iran would endanger not only Israel. If it goes nuclear, the Middle East will go nuclear, putting world peace itself in jeopardy. This is why the Iranian nuclear challenge must not be seen as Mr. Netanyahu’s obsession, or anyone’s partisan issue, but as a central issue for the whole international community to address.
In April, Herzog and former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni released a statement calling the nuclear understandings “problematic,” and asked the United States to “legitimize any action Israel will be forced to take in order to preserve its security in the situation that is created.” (via TheTower.org)