Moniz: We’ve Reached A Milestone

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz

By Secretary ERNEST MONIZ
Department of Energy

After years of negotiation and months of preparation, we’ve reached a milestone.

Today, we are officially implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a historic agreement to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful in nature. Before this agreement, Iran’s breakout time — or the time it would take for Iran to gather enough fissile material to build a weapon — was just two to three months. Today, because of the Iran deal, it would take them 12 months or more.

Here’s how we got to this point:

Since last October, Iran has shipped 25,000 pounds of enriched uranium out of the country and has removed and placed in monitored storage two-thirds of its centrifuges and associated infrastructure. The core of Iran’s Arak Heavy Water Research Reactor was removed and filled with concrete, eliminating Iran’s potential source of weapons-grade plutonium.

To block covert pathways, Iran has allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) unprecedented access to its nuclear facilities and supply chain. And for the first time, the IAEA will be using modern safeguards technologies in its monitoring and verification efforts in Iran.

As a result of these actions, earlier today, the IAEA reported that Iran has completed all of the necessary nuclear steps required to reach Implementation Day.

To date, experts at DOE headquarters, seven national laboratories, and two DOE nuclear sites have been actively involved in reaching and now implementing the agreement. For instance, our experts helped shape the negotiations with rigorous technical analysis of the parameters of the agreement, ensuring Iran’s breakout time is at least a year. In addition, our labs support the IAEA’’s monitoring and verification activities in a number of ways, including by every IAEA inspector in nuclear materials measurement training since 1980.

These experts will continue to play a critical role as the Department leads the U.S. effort to help ensure that Iran meets its key nuclear commitments.

You can stay up to date on the Iran nuclear agreement at wh.gov/Iran-Deal.

As a nuclear physicist at the negotiating table, and by working continuously with my Iranian counterpart right up to Implementation Day, I know it took a lot to get here. Based on hard science and analysis, the Iran nuclear agreement enhances our global security and provides verification to ensure that Iran’’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful from now on.

Thank you.

Implementation Day

On Jan. 16, 2016, the International Atomic Energy Agency verified that Iran has completed the necessary steps under the Iran deal that will ensure Iran’s nuclear program is and remains exclusively peaceful.

Before this agreement, Iran’s breakout time — or the time it would have taken for Iran to gather enough fissile material to build a weapon — was only two to three months. Today, because of the Iran deal, it would take Iran 12 months or more. And with the unprecedented monitoring and access this deal puts in place, if Iran tries, we will know and sanctions will snap back into place.

Here’s how we got to this point. Since October, Iran has:

  • Shipped 25,000 pounds of enriched uranium out of the country
  • Dismantled and removed two-thirds of its centrifuges
  • Removed the calandria from its heavy water reactor and filled it with concrete
  • Provided unprecedented access to its nuclear facilities and supply chain

Because Iran has completed these steps, the U.S. and international community can begin the next phase under the JCPOA, which means the U.S. will begin lifting its nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. However, a number of U.S. sanctions authorities and designations will continue to remain in place.

Q:  “Will Iran be able to inspect its own nuclear facilities?

The Iran Deal blocks the four pathways to a nuclear weapon.

Building a nuclear bomb requires either uranium or plutonium, but thanks to this deal, Iran’s four possible ways to leverage those fissile materials are blocked.

Let’s look into Uranium:
Iran would need two key elements to construct a uranium bomb: enough highly enriched uranium to produce enough material to construct a uranium bomb and tens of thousands of centrifuges.
Currently, Iran has a uranium stockpile to create 8 to ten nuclear bombs. But thanks to this nuclear deal, Iran must reduce its stockpile of uranium by 98%, and will keep its level of uranium enrichment at 3.67% — significantly below the enrichment level needed to create a bomb.
Iran also needs tens of thousands of centrifuges to create highly enriched uranium for a bomb. Right now, Iran has nearly 20,000 centrifuges between their Natanz and Fordow uranium enrichment facilities. But under this deal, Iran must reduce its centrifuges to 6,104 for the next ten years. No enrichment will be allowed at the Fordow facility at all, and the only centrifuges Iran will be allowed to use are their oldest and least efficient models.
In short, here’s the difference this historic deal will make:
 

Let’s look into Plutonium:

The third way Iran could build a nuclear weapon is by using weapons-grade plutonium. The only site where Iran could accomplish this is the Arak reactor, a heavy-water nuclear reactor. Right now, this reactor could be used in a weapons program, but under this deal, the Arak reactor will be redesigned so it cannot produce any weapons-grade plutonium. And all the spent fuel rods (which could also be source material for weapons-grade plutonium) will be sent out of the country as long as this reactor exists. What’s more, Iran will not be able to build a single heavy-water reactor for at least 15 years.

That means, because of this deal, Iran will no longer have a source for weapons-grade plutonium.

Could there be a covert pathway to Iran building a secret nuclear program?

The previous three pathways occur at facilities that Iran has declared, but what if they try to build a nuclear program in secret? That’s why this deal is so important. Under the new nuclear deal, Iran has committed to extraordinary and robust monitoring, verification, and inspection. International inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will not only be continuously monitoring every element of Iran’s declared nuclear program, but they will also be verifying that no fissile material is covertly carted off to a secret location to build a bomb.
 
And if IAEA inspectors become aware of a suspicious location, Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol to their IAEA Safeguards Agreement, which will allow inspectors to access and inspect any site they deem suspicious. Such suspicions can be triggered by holes in the ground that could be uranium mines, intelligence reports, unexplained purchases, or isotope alarms.
 
Basically, from the minute materials that could be used for a weapon comes out of the ground to the minute it is shipped out of the country, the IAEA will have eyes on it and anywhere Iran could try and take it:
 

Here’s what Iran’s Nuclear Program would look like without this deal:

As it stands today, Iran has a large stockpile of enriched uranium and nearly 20,000 centrifuges, enough to create 8 to 10 bombs. If Iran decided to rush to make a bomb without the deal in place, it would take them 2 to 3 months until they had enough weapon-ready uranium (or highly enriched uranium) to build their first nuclear weapon. Left unchecked, that stockpile and that number of centrifuges would grow exponentially, practically guaranteeing that Iran could create a bomb—and create one quickly – if it so chose.

This deal removes the key elements needed to create a bomb and prolongs Iran’s breakout time from 2-3 months to 1 year or more if Iran broke its commitments. Importantly, Iran won’t garner any new sanctions relief until the IAEA confirms that Iran has followed through with its end of the deal. And should Iran violate any aspect of this deal, the U.N., U.S., and E.U. can snap the sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy back into place.

Here’s what Iran has committed to:

What the World is Saying about the Iran Deal

Nuclear physicists, military officials, non-proliferation experts, and more than 100 countries across the globe have all voiced their support for the Iran nuclear deal because it is the best solution available to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon without taking military action.

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