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Physicists Endorse Nuclear Deal with Iran

Letter addressed to President Obama calls the deal “innovative” and “stringent”

August 11, 2015  |  Emily Conover

President Obama can now count many prominent U.S. physicists among the supporters of the proposed nuclear weapons deal with Iran. The agreement, reached between Iran, the U.S., and other world powers, now hinges on U.S. Congressional approval. On Saturday, a group of 29 scientists sent a letter to the White House congratulating the President on the deal, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The plan would lift some sanctions on Iran, and would put in place restrictions aimed at preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon.

The list of signers includes experts in nuclear weapons technologies and nonproliferation, Nobel Prize winners, and former science advisors to Congress and the White House. The scientists strongly support the plan, calling it “innovative” and “stringent,” and stating that the deal “will advance the cause of peace and security in the Middle East and can serve as a guidepost for future non-proliferation agreements.”

The letter asserts that, prior to the beginning of negotiations, the additional enrichment time necessary for Iran to create a nuclear weapon was only a few weeks. The letter argues that the agreement would increase that “breakout time” to many months, and would make it easier for the U.S. to know if Iran began working towards nuclear weapons capabilities.

Physicists who penned the letter include Richard Garwin, a physicist who worked on the design of the first hydrogen bomb, plasma physicist Robert Goldston of Princeton University, Frank von Hippel of Princeton University, who served as assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Rush Holt, a former member of Congress and CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and nuclear scientist R. Scott Kemp of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Many other prominent physicists signed the letter, including Nobel laureates Philip Anderson of Princeton University, Leon Cooper of Brown University, Sheldon Glashow of Boston University, David Gross of the University of California, Santa Barbara, Burton Richter of Stanford University, and Frank Wilczek of MIT.