July 30, 2015

VIDEO: In Speech, Udall Urges Support for Diplomatic Agreement to Prevent Nuclear-Armed Iran

WASHINGTON - Today in a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Tom Udall endorsed the proposed diplomatic agreement to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. He urged Congress to support it based on the scientific and technical merits, saying the alternative could lead to more war that Americans don't want and can't afford.

"This is a historic moment. This agreement has profound impact if we approve it and - make no mistake - if we fail to approve it," Udall said in his speech. "This is a time for careful review and I hope we can take a step back and take a clear view."

Udall underscored the importance of verification and emphasized his confidence in the science guiding the agreement, including the work done by scientists and nuclear energy and weapons experts at national labs like Los Alamos and Sandia in New Mexico.

"Critics rightly ask: How will we be sure? Iran has cheated before and they may cheat again," Udall said. "That is why the P5+1 will be closely involved in the redesign and rebuilding of this reactor. If it has plutonium, we will know."

"We all agree on one thing: verification is key. I don't think any of us have any illusions here. Iran has a long and troubling history of deception," Udall continued. "I am pleased the administration included Secretary of Energy Moniz in these discussions. The Department of Energy is the world's foremost expert on nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. Any agreement on nuclear weapons must be guided by science. Not politics. Not speculation. Science. Our scientists at New Mexico's two national labs, Los Alamos and Sandia, and scientists at Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge national laboratories all have played a key role in these negotiations."

"This agreement will take the nuclear threat off the table. That is what it will do, but here's what it will not do. It does not diminish our resolve to combat other threats or to defend our allies. That resolve will be and it must be stronger than ever. To my colleagues who argue we should walk away from the agreement, which has already been approved by the world's leading powers, I would ask: walk away to where? To what end? To what alternative?"

Udall urged senators to consider the deal with a focus not on politics, but rather on preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon or the materials to develop one. He encouraged them to act promptly on the strategic opportunity presented by the proposed agreement, rather than delaying.

"We have a choice between this deal and no deal. I do not believe we will get another chance," Udall said. "But...I ask that we be open to ways that Congress can reinforce the agreement. That should be part of the process too, with investment in people and technologies to support nonproliferation enforcement, with strong oversight of the implementation plan - not to embarrass or score political points - but to ensure Iran is abiding by its part of the deal, with increased support for our allies in the region, and with clear provisions for a quick snapback of existing sanctions should that be necessary."

Below are Udall's remarks as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, today, we are considering a diplomatic agreement about the future of a nuclear-armed Iran. Most of us in this body have strong opinions about the agreement. Some believe it will weaken our position. I believe the opposite, and I have come to the floor to express my support.

Republican and Democratic presidents have all at times used the tools of diplomacy. Those efforts made us stronger and in some cases brought us back from the brink of nuclear disaster.

President Reagan negotiated disarmament with the Soviet Union. President Nixon re-engaged with China. President Kennedy used diplomacy-not war-to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis. These were heroic initiatives. In each case, they were attacked for weakness, and in each case they made us safer.

I begin my remarks about the power of diplomacy because I want to echo points that Senator Durbin made so well last week. I would urge my colleagues to review his remarks to better understand the history and importance of diplomacy in our country.

None of the historical deals we reference was perfect. All were fiercely attacked, but they made the world a safer place. They moved us forward, and this agreement will move us forward.

When it comes to our relationship with Iran, there is much that we need to do, but there is one thing that we must do: stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Period.

That is our priority. That is our goal, and that is what we all agree on.

The sanctions did what they were intended to do. They brought Iran to the table and enabled our diplomats to effectively stop Iran's nuclear weapons program.

The results are clear: multiple centrifuges ready to be disconnected, uranium levels insufficient for a nuclear weapon or a quick breakout, and no access to plutonium.

This is a historic moment. This agreement has profound impact if we approve it and - make no mistake - if we fail to approve it. Because let's be clear on one reality: this is a multi-lateral agreement.

It was confirmed by the UN Security Council just last week. The sanctions regime cannot be sustained by U.S. action alone.

This is a time for careful review and I hope we can take a step back and take a clear view.

In this debate, we need to consider three basic points of the agreement. One, what it does. Two, what it does not do. And, three, what it will require of us in the future.

I want to start by talking about what this agreement does.

To build a nuclear weapon you need either weapons grade uranium or plutonium and you need infrastructure. Those are the pathways, and this agreement will block all of them.

Before the negotiations began, Iran was well on its way to enough uranium - enriched to nearly 20 percent - for breakout to weapons grade. Possibly within two or three months. With this agreement, the breakout time would increase to one year, giving the U.S. and the international community more than enough time to respond.

Under this deal, Iran's uranium stockpile is cut by 98 percent. Enrichment is limited to 3.67 percent for 15 years. Centrifuges are reduced by two-thirds.

Enrichment capability at the Fordow facility will also be limited and closely watched.

The International Atomic Energy Agency will be able to verify that Iran is abiding by its uranium limits by monitoring every stage of the nuclear supply chain.

Plutonium will be blocked. The reactor core at Arak is a heavy water reactor and can produce plutonium. This core will be removed. Its openings will be filled with concrete in a way that the IAEA can verify, so it will not be used for plutonium application.

Critics rightly ask: How will we be sure? Iran has cheated before and they may cheat again.

That is why the P5+1 will be closely involved in the redesign and rebuilding of this reactor. If it has plutonium, we will know.

The modernized reactor will not use heavy water and will be limited to 3.67 percent enriched uranium. A violation at Arak would be nearly impossible to hide.

And it doesn't stop here. Iran will have to abide by and ratify the additional protocol of the Nonproliferation Treaty before the deal is finalized. Contrary to detractors, this is not an 8, 10, or 15 year deal, but a deal that lasts.

We all agree on one thing. Verification is key. I don't think any of us has any illusions here. Iran has a long and troubling history of deception.

I am pleased the administration included Secretary of Energy Moniz in these discussions. The Department of Energy is the world's foremost expert on nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.

Any agreement on nuclear weapons must be guided by science. Not politics. Not speculation. Science.

Our scientists at New Mexico's two national labs, Los Alamos and Sandia, and scientists at Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge National Laboratories all have played a key role in these negotiations.

Mr. President, the physics of nuclear weapons is complex. You can't make a bomb out of thin air. I have met with our scientists. I have listened to the experts at the Department of Energy.

Iran may be able to break the rules of the deal but it can't break the rules of physics.

Nuclear materials give off telltale signatures. The radioactive decay of uranium and plutonium is detectable, even in the event of delayed access. Uranium, in nature, has a half life of 4.5 billion years. Enriched Uranium 235 - which can be used in a weapon - has a half life of 700 million years. In effect, you can delay, but you still can't hide.

Verification will be strong. That means continuous monitoring. It means tamper-proof electronic seals, and it means dedicated facilities to inspect the Iranian nuclear program.

It will include up to 150 inspectors with long-term visas.

We will have the best inspectors in the world in Iran. They will have unprecedented access - 24/7 - to all declared sites. And, I would add - they are all trained by nuclear experts at our national labs.

I may not trust Iran. But I do trust the science and our national labs.

This is a serious debate on one of the greatest challenges of our time. This agreement will meet that challenge - ongoing and for years to come.

But, let's not kid ourselves. There are other challenges. There are continued dangers posed by the Iranian regime. We all know this. That is why sanctions against Iran's support for terrorist groups will remain. And we stand by our allies in the region. The president has made this very clear.

This agreement will take the nuclear threat off the table. That is what it will do. But, here's what it will not do. It does not diminish our resolve to combat other threats or to defend our allies. That resolve will be - and it must be - stronger than ever.

To my colleagues who argue we should walk away from the agreement - which has already been approved by the world's leading powers - I would ask: walk away to where? To what end? To what alternative?

I would make two proposals. First, I urge my colleagues to support this agreement. We have a choice between this deal and no deal. I do not believe we will get another chance.

But, second, I ask that we be open to ways that Congress can reinforce the agreement. That should be part of the process too, with investment in people and technologies to support nonproliferation enforcement, with strong oversight of the implementation plan - not to embarrass or score political points - but to ensure Iran is abiding by its part of the deal, with increased support for our allies in the region, and with clear provisions for a quick snapback of existing sanctions should that be necessary.

We have a strategic opportunity, just as presidents Kennedy, Nixon, and Reagan did with adversaries in the past. We need to act now from a position of strength and not wait till another day when the danger may be greater and our options may be more limited.

I began my remarks with reference to history. I would conclude with one other closer in time and devastating in consequence, and that is Iraq. Instead of exhausting our diplomatic options, we opted for war. Instead of measured resistance, we opted for regime change. The result was - and is - tragic.

Diplomacy takes time. It is often imperfect. But, there are times when it is our best option - and our best course. This is one of those times.