According to experts, this is over half of what is needed for a single bomb, once it is taken the additional short step to 90% purity.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Iran’s nuclear chief announced Saturday that the country has reached its target of 120 kg. of 20% enriched uranium almost three months ahead of schedule, in another challenge to the West that wants to limit the Islamic Republic’s nuclear stockpile.
“We have passed 120 kilograms,” said Mohammad Eslami, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran on state television. We have more than that figure.”
“Our people know well that [the Western powers] were meant to give us the enriched fuel at 20 percent to use in the Tehran reactor, but they haven’t done so,” he added. “If our colleagues do not do it, we would naturally have problems with the lack of fuel for the Tehran reactor.”
After the November 2020 assassination of its top nuclear weapons scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which the mullahs attributed to Israel, Iran’s parliament authorized its government agency to reach the 120 kg. mark by the end of 2021.
According to the 2015 nuclear deal, called the JCPOA, in return for not stockpiling more than 203 kg. of low-enriched (3.7%) uranium, which is the kind of fuel generally used in commercial nuclear power plants, Iran would be supplied with the fuel it needed for its commercial Tehran reactor. This reactor currently runs on 20% enriched uranium.
According to the Arms Control Association, 120 kg is about half the amount needed to make a single nuclear bomb, once it has been taken to a 90% purity level. Iran announced in April that it had begun enriching uranium to the intermediate step of 60%, which Western countries say has no civilian use.
By June Tehran said that it had produced 6.5 kg. of the higher grade, a much slower rate than its approximately 15 kg/ month production at the 20% level. According to an April IAEA report, Iran was using only one cascade, or group, of its most advanced centrifuges to enrich its U-235 stockpile to the more worrisome level.
However, it has large amounts of source material. Some 3,000 kg. is available to spin into higher levels of purity in its centrifuges. Exact numbers are unknown, as Iran has refused to allow IAEA in to monitor its nuclear sites since February, nor access their cameras’ memory cards for that time period.
During indirect negotiations with Iran in the first half of the year over a mutual return to the JCPOA, the United States had reportedly offered Iran to partially lift sanctions in exchange for Tehran stopping to enrich its uranium to 20% levels. The mullahs rejected the offer, saying it would only stop if all sanctions were lifted. Negotiations ceased in the summer ahead of Iranian presidential elections.
Last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said after talks in Moscow that his country “will soon restore our negotiations in Vienna.”