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February 14, 2014 4:14 pm

Expert: Iran Deal Sets Precedent for Centrifuge Enrichment in Other Countries

avatar by Joshua Levitt

The Arak IR-40 heavy water reactor in Iran. Photo: Nanking2012 / WikiCommons.

The Arak IR-40 heavy water reactor in Iran. Photo: Nanking2012 / WikiCommons.

As a final agreement is negotiated over Iran’s nuclear program, a nonproliferation expert said the deal on the table could set a dangerous precedent that could allow unlimited centrifuge development in other countries.

Greg Jones, Senior Researcher at the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, on Thursday told journalists on a conference call organized by The Israel Project that the precedent that will be set means that there’d be “no basis to denying centrifuge enrichment to any other non-proliferation treaty (NPT) member country.”

One “serious problem is that once you’ve said that Iran, a country that’s violated its IAEA safeguards, defied multiple UN Security Council resolutions to stop centrifuge enrichment, can have centrifuge enrichment, there’s no basis to denying centrifuge enrichment to any other NPT member country,” Jones said. “Once any country has centrifuge enrichment it’s already quite close to being able to produce the HEU for nuclear weapons.”

He said that there is also a flaw in the argument by “those who envision allowing Iran to have a, some enrichment, their view is that, ‘well, Iran will only have token centrifuge enrichment. We’re going to pare it way down so it’ll just be this token little thing and it won’t be a threat.'”

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“We’ve seen that [Iranian] President [Hassan] Rouhani has said he’s not going to dismantle any of the 19,000 current centrifuges that they want, and further he went on to say that he wants Iran to have 20,000 megawatts of nuclear power and wants Iran to provide the fuel for those reactors. Well, that would require the equivalent of one to two million centrifuges. So you can see where Iran’s position is.”

Another point mentioned by Jones that often eludes discussion is that the agreement would likely include a time frame that would expire.

In an introduction to the discussion, TIP analyst Omri Ceren said, “People sometimes forget, but even a final agreement is being talked about as time bound. There are debates over whether restrictions on Iran will last three years or five years or twenty years, but not on whether they’ll expire at all. Leaving Iran with any enrichment capacity at all under such a deal makes things particularly problematic, and Jones talks about a potential cascade of other countries demanding enrichment capacity capable of producing highly-enriched uranium. The idea of only allowing ‘token enrichment’ turns out to be no check at all.”

Jones said for Iran, it “means that whenever the comprehensive solution’s term has run out, then Iran’s going to be under no restrictions; going to have centrifuge enrichment’ going to have as large and robust a centrifuge enrichment program as it wants, could even – since this is now legitimized – get aid from other countries, materials, whatever. So that’s a serious problem.”

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