Iran announced it is violating the nuclear deal and enriching uranium to 20%. How long will it take it to make a nuclear weapon?
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
Iran on Tuesday announced it is producing nine kilograms of enriched uranium with 20% purity a month at its Fordow nuclear facility, Press TV reported, fueling the speculation over just how long the Islamic Republic needs to produce a nuclear weapon.
If Iran enriches significant quantities of uranium to 20%, its nuclear breakout time will become “very, very small,” Ernest Moniz, who played a key role in negotiating the 2015 deal as Barack Obama’s energy secretary told the Axios news website. “The key question is how much they make.”
“This is a significant escalation,” Kelsey Davenport of the Washington-based Arms Control Association told The Independent. “Enriching to 20% constitutes about 90% of the necessary work to produce weapons-grade uranium. Twenty percent poses a more serious proliferation risk, and stockpiling material at this level will begin to reduce Iran’s breakout time more quickly.”
The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a top-ranked think tank in Washington that keeps its finger on the pulse of the Iranian nuclear program, tweeted Tuesday that once Iran has enough uranium enriched to 20% purity, the breakout time – the time it needs to produce 90% bomb-grade uranium – would drop to only six weeks.
ISIS said that although it doesn’t know how many centrifuges are currently dedicated to 20% enrichment, they based their educated assessment on reports they had seen that approximately 1000 IR-1 centrifuges will be used, at least initially.
With years of experience in analyzing enrichment of uranium by the Iranians, ISIS predicted that the Natanz nuclear site could produce about 15-20 kg per month, meaning it would take Iran about 10-13 months to produce enough near 20 percent enriched uranium for a bomb.
However, a day before the Iranian announcement, ISIS had already predicted that adding the Fordow centrifuges could “double the monthly rate to a total of 30-40 kg per month and take Iran as little as five or up to six and half months to produce enough near 20% enriched U for a bomb.”
“With enough near 20% enriched uranium for a bomb, the breakout timeline would be reduced to as short as 1.5 months,” said ISIS, whose researchers predicted two months ago that “Iran’s estimated breakout time as of early November 2020 is as short as 3.5 months.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Iranian enrichment “a blatant and utter violation” of its international commitments.
“There is no other explanation for this – other than the realization of Iran’s continued intention to produce nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said in a statement released Monday evening. “I repeat – Israel will not allow Iran to produce nuclear weapons.”