Former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin warned Friday that the West's one dimensional perception of Iran's nuclear program, focusing solely on the uranium enrichment path to a nuclear weapon, could enable the Islamic Republic to build a plutonium bomb without detection.
In an op-ed article Yadlin penned for The New York Times together with Avner Golov of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, he argued that uranium enrichment is one of only three dimensions to Iran's nuclear strategy, a fact that those who enter into negotiations with Iran must take into account.
"A second dimension is Iran’s progress toward a quick 'breakout capability' through the stockpiling of large quantities of low-enriched uranium that could be further enriched rapidly to provide weapons-grade fuel. Third, Iran also appears to be pursuing a parallel track to a nuclear capability through the production of plutonium. If there is going to be a nuclear deal with Iran, all three parts of its strategy must be addressed," Yadlin and Golov warned.
Iran's heavy-water reactor being built in Arak could become operational next year, a move that would allow it to make serious progress toward a plutonium-fueled weapon, the article stated.
"A functioning nuclear reactor in Arak could eventually allow Iran to produce sufficient quantities of plutonium for nuclear bombs," Yadlin and Golov said, adding that Western negotiators should demand the Arak reactor be shut down.
"This is crucial because the West would likely seek to avoid an attack on a 'hot' reactor, lest it cause widespread environmental damage. Once Arak is operational, it would effectively be immune from attack and the West would be deprived of its primary 'stick' in its efforts to persuade Iran to forgo a military nuclear capability."
Yadlin and Golov stated that even Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the most outspoken supporter of harsh action against Iran's nuclear program, related solely to the uranium enrichment track when he presented his "red line" at the UN General Assembly last year.
"Of the three countries that have publicly crossed the nuclear threshold since the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty entered into force in 1970, two — India and North Korea — did so via the plutonium track. In order to deny Iran this route, any agreement between the West and Iran must guarantee that Iran will not retain a breakout or 'sneak out' plutonium-production capacity," they posited.