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Nuclear Deal Includes Surveillance Of Iran's Nuclear Facilities

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Iran nuclear deal includes more surveillance at the country's nuclear facilities, something President Obama says will ensure that Iran does not build a bomb.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BARACK OBAMA: This is the most vigorous inspection and verification regime, by far, that has ever been negotiated.

CORNISH: But critics of this deal are skeptical of the timeframe Iran will have to comply with requests from the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit undeclared sites - 24 days - plenty of time, they say, to conceal suspicious activity. We're joined now by Dr. Tom Shea. He spent more than two decades as an inspector with the IAEA. Welcome to the program.

TOM SHEA: Thank you.

CORNISH: So what are inspectors looking for when they go to these sites?

SHEA: There are five areas of interest that the IAEA will have to inspect to come to full success in its implementation role. The first is finding hidden facilities. This is the most challenging demand because Iran is more than twice the size of Texas. The next is misuse of the declared facilities. And now with all of the steps that are included in this joint comprehensive plan of action, there's not much left that Iran can do. And the monitoring is relatively simple and straightforward. The third has to do with the nuclear materials - uranium that's available to Iran - that it remains accounted for and used exclusively for peaceful purpose. And the fourth is the question of banned imports. Are they receiving things through black market or things of that sort? So there'll be a program underway or is already to look for such things. And then finally is the question of the limitations that they've agreed to that the IAEA will have to certify that those capabilities are not exceeded.

CORNISH: Is it possible for Iran to have an entirely covert and secret other program with inspectors in and out of the country?

SHEA: It's a huge landmass, and so I don't know that there's any guarantee. And I would say that part of the role of the IAEA is to continue to look for existing facilities that have not been discovered up until now. Do I know of any? I certainly don't, and I have no idea that they would exist. And it will also have to look for any new construction, whether this would be in a remote part of the country or perhaps hidden in a city under buildings, under hospitals or military base, et cetera.

CORNISH: If you were an inspector dispatched to Iran today, do you feel like you'd be entering in a position of strength?

SHEA: I think there's a position of hope and strength, but I think hope in the sense that having gone through this negotiation process, having accepted this radical reduction in its existing capabilities that it - there's an opportunity that I believe Iran has sought which would give it a new start by demonstrating that it is going to stay with this agreement and continue to observe it.

The agency is certainly armed with capabilities that it never had before, and as long as it is able to maintain the political and technical and financial support of the international community, I believe that it'll be very successful in carrying these activities out. If it's by Iran, it may be impeded by other mechanisms entirely, but if it is impeded by Iran, then the world will know and rather soon. And that will be evidence that this is not going to have a happy outcome.

CORNISH: Well Thomas Shea, thank you so much for coming in to speak with us.

SHEA: Pleasure, thank you.

CORNISH: Thomas Shea is a former inspector with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.