Iran has labeled international inspections at its main atomic sites over the past 18 months as "the most intrusive and robust" of that any country has faced, per the New York Times. But inspection leaders say they've actually been hampered this whole time by outdated technology—and that with a possible US-Iran deal on Tehran's nuclear program expected any day now, inspections are about to become a whole lot more cutting edge. The Iran Task Force, the arm of the International Atomic Energy Agency charged with keeping tabs on Iran's compliance to international mandates, is prepping smart cameras, laser sensors, and other high-tech equipment and systems, much of which would allow inspectors to monitor Iran's nuclear facilities in real time from the task force's station outside Vienna, the Times notes.
"If we are going to have any assurance that Iran will stick to its new commitments, our inspections in Iran are going to have to move beyond the world of film and little wire seals," an IAEA official tells the Times. And until now, the agency has been using what the Times calls "Betamax-era equipment" ("we started with 35-millimeter Minolta cameras that advanced one frame every few minutes," an ex-IAEA official says) and security seals that had to be retrieved on-site and sent out for analysis, which can take weeks. Now electronic and fiber-optics technology can transmit data to off-site inspectors. Not that the new gear is the ultimate panacea: Another ex-IAEA official warns that Iran may not agree to this advanced surveillance, and even if it does, we'd still need to worry about an atomic bomb being assembled at "covert facilities," notes the Times. (The Saudis swear they'll keep up with Iran on the nuclear front no matter what.)