In defense establishment discussions of the Iranian nuclear agreement, Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, which advises the government on nuclear issues, has endorsed the pact, a source familiar with the commission’s stance told Haaretz Thursday. The panel’s position runs directly counter to that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, cabinet ministers and most of the political opposition.
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The commission’s members say they are convinced that the April 2 agreement between Iran and the world powers will prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. In recent years these experts have been analyzing information about Iran’s nuclear project, and estimating how far away the Islamic Republic was from developing a bomb. The panel’s viewpoint deals only with the technical aspects of the agreement, and not with the geostrategic implications of its non-technical clauses, such as the gradual lifting of sanctions on Iran.
The panel holds that any Iranian violation of the pact would be detected easily due to the outside surveillance and analysis methods being used on the Iranian nuclear project. In recent years Israel has invested considerable resources in developing technologies to locate and analyze nuclear activity, makes its available to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is charged with overseeing Iran’s compliance with the pact.
Thus, the source said, there is effectively no importance in the agreement’s much-criticized clause giving the Iranians 24 days’ advance warning prior to an IAEA inspection of nuclear sites or sites suspected of nuclear activity. The IAEA has technological means that make it possible to recreate the precise nature of the nuclear activity, going back not only 24 days but many years, the source noted.
In defense establishment discussions, the commission’s members stressed their satisfaction with the changes made in the nuclear reactor in Arak, a heavy-water reactor similar to the one in Dimona, in which Iran is trying to produce plutonium for the purpose of assembling a nuclear warhead. The panel maintains that the changes in the reactor that were added to the agreement block any possibility of producing the military-grade plutonium required for a bomb, and that there is no way of bypassing inspection and producing plutonium under the noses of the experienced IAEA inspectors. The committee also noted that the nature of the activity in the heavy-water reactors for producing plutonium can be monitored even without inspectors being inside the facility.
Regarding the enriched uranium reactors in Fordo and Natanz, the panel’s experts said the number of centrifuges for enriching uranium permitted to the Iranians – over 5,000 – is not ideal. However, they said the danger to Israel from bombs built on enriched uranium is not great, because such bombs are so heavy that it would be a daunting challenge for the Iranians to mount one on a ballistic missile that could reach Israel. Thus, said the source, even if the Iranians could enrich uranium to military grade — something barred by the nuclear agreement — they would remain far from being able to threaten Israel with nuclear attack.
The Atomic Energy Commission said that the panel's position as presented in the article "was never voiced by anyone authorized by the Atomic Energy Commission."