Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz downplayed concerns that Iran could secretly develop a nuclear weapon with the current agreement in effect, saying the U.S. would “know within weeks” if Iran cheated.
“The number one point is that the current reactor will not completed, actually a key central component, it’s called the calandria, is going to be removed and literally filled with concrete so that it cannot be used again,” Moniz said in a discussion held by the Jewish Federations of North America.
“Then, the P5+1, which will include the United States, will oversee the redesign of that reactor, the parameters are already agreed to on what that reactor can do, it’s two pages in the agreement if you want to look it up. As I said, it will be roughly a factor of 10 in the amount of plutonium reduction,” he added.
Moniz said that plutonium would not be “weapons grade.”
“If they were to try to cheat with that reactor we would know it within weeks and they would be still years away from the ability to turn that plutonium into a weapon so we have a lot of time,” he said.
Despite this, Moniz said the U.S. would “clearly” have to look out for covert activity.
“But I think we feel pretty confident in our ability to block that pathway,” he said.
Moniz was asked how long it would take Iran to produce a nuclear weapon.
“I would say that today it’s about 2 months probably to assemble the nuclear material for a nuclear weapon and for the first 15 years it’s going to be substantially longer,” he responded.
“Breakout time means that if they were to kick out the inspectors and say, ‘we’re not following the agreement, all of you get out of here, we want to race to him a bomb,’ that it would still take them a year to get there with enough material,” he added.
Moniz also said converting the material into a weapon, such as a long-range missile delivery system, is not easy.
“A very key part of the agreement is that Iran forever is not allowed to pursue a whole set of activities called weaponization activities so even if you had the material you need to be able to make metal. You need to be able to have an explosively driven neutron source,” he said.
Moniz stressed the agreement does not mean the U.S. government can relax.
“We have to implement – we have to carry all of this through and it’s a big job but we’re going to do it,” Moniz said, adding that he has not heard a “credible” alternative to the current deal.
“I just haven’t heard it and I do know, as we said earlier, that if we are the ones who unilaterally undermine this agreement, it’s not going to be a very good day after. Again, it’s hard to imagine that we would not lose the unity of the international collaboration,” he said.