Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency will rely on foreign intelligence by countries like Israel and the U.S. to identify possible concerns in Iran’s nuclear program, said a former IAEA official on Sunday.
“[Iran] is under close scrutiny by its neighbors, by Israel, by the United States and others, with satellite imagery going on. And in those cases the intelligence services have spies on the ground and carry out electronic eavesdropping so their knowledge is much greater than any international organization can have,” Thomas Shea, former senior IAEA official at the Safeguards Department, told C-SPAN.
“But, as … in Iraq and North Korea, providing intelligence came to be part of the overall system. And so the access to this remarkably strong source is available. Once you know there’s a location, getting to it is a matter of request,” he said.
Shea addressed concerns that the 24-day process set out by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — the official name for the Iran nuclear deal struck by 6 world powers and Iran, and approved by the EU and U.N. Security Council on Monday — to resolve disputes over suspicious Iranian sites or activities would allow Tehran to cover-up any possible violations.
“Twenty-four days may sound like a long time, but the other 126 countries that have Additional Protocol don’t even have that as a restriction,” said Shea, referring to IAEA regulations allowing inspectors more freedom in detecting suspicious nuclear sites.
Shea hardly backed away from potential challenges facing nuclear inspectors in the Middle East’s second largest country, where Tehran went to great lengths to burrow elements of its nuclear program deep inside mountains or out in remote locations, one of which, Natanz, Shea notes was uncovered by resistance figures, and another site by satellite imagery.
Shea said, given the history of Iran’s remote nuclear sites being discovered and touted as proof of nefarious activity, Tehran would likely pursue a different path were it to seek under-the-radar developments this time.
“It is likely that if Iran were to go forward with a new construction that it might not do it in the hinterlands, but try to come into a city with smaller facilities in a better hidden location,” said Shea.
He also cautioned that it would be rather easy for Iran to move uranium undetected.
“Radiation levels from uranium is rather low, so provided the container is hermetically sealed so that nothing gets out of it, you could hide it virtually anywhere,” he said.
Shea also affirmed his support for the agreement, saying that it allowed Iran a “clean slate.”
“What’s happened in the past can be forgiven… And now we have an agreement and Iran will be expected to stick to the letter of it,” he said.