Iran’s enrichment of its large stockpile of uranium to 60% purity is only a short step below the grade needed for a weapon.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Iran’s months-long efforts to enrich uranium has enabled the country to produce enough fuel for a nuclear bomb in as little 30 days, an expert group has reported according to The New York Times Tuesday.
The Institute for Science and International Security, which examines reports published by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is quoted as saying that by succeeding in enriching the nuclear fuel to 60% purity, the country is now capable of going the short distance needed to make the material for a single weapon “in as short as one month.” Two bombs’ worth of fuel could be ready in less than three months, with a third following just two months after that, said the report.
The IAEA had sent a confidential report in May to its member states seen by Reuters that said an analysis of environmental samples taken the previous month near the Natanz site revealed an enrichment level of even 63%. Under the nuclear deal, Iran was limited to a very small amount of uranium, which could only be enriched to 3.67%.
American officials disputed that short a time-line, said the daily, but admitted that it may be only a few months off. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned foreign diplomats three weeks ago that Iran was just two months away from developing the materials required for nuclear capability.
Access to the right kind of fuel is only one part of the process, as the Iranians would still have to produce a warhead that could be placed in a missile. That warhead would have to be constructed using uranium metal, which Iran has slowly begun to manufacture, with 200 grams of it made by mid-August, according to the IAEA. Unlike the metal, which was banned under the nuclear deal, research into missile technology was never prohibited and is ongoing in the Islamic Republic.
In spite of all this activity, the mullahs have insisted that there is a religious ban on manufacturing nuclear weapons and that their work is civilian in nature. Yet they have not allowed IAEA inspections of their nuclear facilities in months, and have refused to answer questions regarding suspected unreported nuclear sites in the country.
On Sunday, Iran and IAEA head Rafael Grossi did agree that the UN agency could replace the memory cards in the cameras it had installed in various centers of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Inspectors will also be able to service broken cameras, some of which may have been damaged in a sabotage operation at the Karaj nuclear facility attributed to Israel in June.
Although the cards could show whether Iran has further violated the terms of the nuclear deal, Grossi has allowed them to be put under a joint seal instead and will not review their contents. He insisted that this move is still useful even though it keeps the IAEA in the dark as to Iranian progress towards a bomb because “We will be able to keep the information needed to maintain continuity of knowledge.”
Grossi added that the Iranians agreed that he could return at some date to be determined for further talks where “nothing will be sidelined and nothing hidden” in terms of issues that will be discussed.
In return for these so-called concessions, the European countries still signed onto the deal will not censure Iran in the IAEA’s upcoming board meeting. It is believed that such a censure would endanger the talks between Iran and the United States on the latter’s return to the nuclear deal and the revival of its strict uranium enrichment limitations.
The talks stalled in June after six inconclusive rounds and the Americans have made it clear that their patience regarding their revival is not unlimited.