Last week, I wrote a short blog post previewing the research I’ve compiled in slideshow format below. As I stated in that post, Iran’s enrichment program is no longer the “long pole in the tent” for a weapons capability given Iran’s progress in this area over the last several years. Weaponization—the process of mating nuclear fuel with an explosive device—is now the primary obstacle for Tehran.
This assessment is the eighth version of a recurring analysis of Iran’s nuclear program.
Start of Advanced Centrifuge Installation
- International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors observed that Iran installed 180 IR-2m centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment facility. These machines have an output rate several times greater than first-generation centrifuges. The deployment of IR-2m centrifuges in significant quantities will drastically reduce the time required for weapons-grade (~90% enriched) uranium production and, therefore, increase the risk that Iran will be able to produce such material undetected.
Significant Installation of First-Generation Centrifuges
- Iran increased its enrichment capacity by installing more than 2,200 additional first-generation centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment facility between November 2012 and February 2013. This mass installation will further cut the time needed to produce weapons-grade uranium. It also indicates that Iran is still able to produce centrifuges in significant quantities despite sanctions and interdiction efforts.
Stockpiling for Second Bomb’s Worth of ~20% Enriched Uranium
- Iran is producing near-weapons grade (~20% enriched) uranium at a rate of about 10 kilograms per month. It has converted to powder and sent to the Tehran Research Reactor only a small fraction of this material thus far. Iran has stockpiled, in gas and powder forms, enough 20% uranium to rapidly convert to fuel for one bomb. It is now on its way to accumulating a second bomb’s worth of 20% uranium.
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