Iran has reportedly not been this close to nuclear capability since before the nuclear accord in 2015.
Iran is on track to obtaining enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb within a month, according to a report published on Monday by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a US-based think tank.
The institute projected that in a worst-case scenario, Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear weapon within as little as a month, and could produce enough for a second weapon within three months, and a third within five months.
Iran already has 200 grams of enriched uranium metal, which is an integral element for the production of nuclear weapons.
The report by ISIS – also known as the “good ISIS” – would not mean the Islamic Republic could fire a nuclear weapon, as this requires additional tasks relating to detonation and delivery. These additional tasks could take between six months and nearly two years depending on contradictory intelligence assessments, which estimate how far Iran has clandestinely progressed in these areas. But if correct, the report means Tehran is at a new nuclear threshold where all that is needed is the political decision.
This prediction by the think tank came with criticism of the IAEA’S latest deal with Tehran on Sunday, in which a new dialogue was opened with Iran’s new government over nuclear issues, but without the Islamic Republic stopping its 60% enrichment violation of the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal.
Since April, Iran jumped its enrichment from 5% and 20% to the 60% level, which is considered only one level down from the 90% weaponized level.
“As of August 30, Iran has produced an IAEA-estimated stock of 10 kilograms of near 60 percent enriched uranium,” the report said, estimating that 40 kilograms would be “roughly enough for one nuclear explosive.”
Moreover, the report said that Iran has an IAEA-estimated stock of 84.3 kg of 20% enriched uranium, an increase from the previous reporting period’s 62.8 kg of 20% enriched uranium.
In addition, though the previous IAEA report “indicated a reduced quantity of enriching centrifuges… following an April 11 sabotage event involving an explosion, the number of enriching IR-1 cascades and IR-2m cascades appears to have almost fully recovered.
At lower levels, Iran has in fact had sufficient quantity for multiple nuclear bombs for several months.
Before the 2015 JCPOA, Iran had sufficient low enriched uranium for around 10 nuclear bombs.
What was most significant about the report was that it was laid out in quantitative scientific terms based on IAEA reports themselves, as opposed to the sometimes more vague statements by Israeli or other politicians.
Critics will note that the think tank’s founder, David Albright, is a hawk on Iran issues, but the report is based on IAEA data.
The report concluded that all Iranian moves are designed to pressure the US into concessions in the nuclear negotiations, which broke down between May and June and have been totally frozen since new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was elected in August.
The current and former Israeli governments both oppose a return to the JCPOA without massive changes to fill holes, whereas the Biden administration has moved aggressively to return to the deal.
To date, administration officials have vaguely threatened that their patience for Iran to return to the negotiating table was not limitless, but have avoided any actual deadline.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz stated last month that Iran was two months away from acquiring a nuclear weapon.