Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb in as little as a month, according to a new estimate by one of the USA’s top nuclear experts.
The new assessment comes as the White House invited Senate staffers to a briefing on negotiations with Iran as it is trying to persuade Congress not to go ahead with a bill to stiffen sanctions against Iran.
“Shortening breakout times have implications for any negotiation with Iran,” stated the report by the Institute for Science and International Security. “An essential finding is that they are currently too short and shortening further.”
David Albright, president of the institute and a former inspector for the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, said the estimate means that Iran would have to eliminate more than half of its 19,000 centrifuges to extend the time it would take to build a bomb to six months.
The Obama administration has said Iran is probably a year away from having enough enriched uranium to make a bomb. Requests for comment from the National Security Council and the State Department were not answered.
In the report, Albright said negotiations with Iran should focus on so-called “breakout” times, or the time required to convert low-enriched uranium to weapons-grade.
Albright, who has testified before Congress, said the negotiators should try to find ways to lengthen the breakout times and shorten the time that inspectors could detect breakout. ISIS’ analysis is based on the latest Iranian and United Nations reports on Iran’s centrifuge equipment for producing nuclear fuel and its nuclear fuel stockpiles.
Iran’s stockpile of highly-enriched uranium has nearly doubled in a year’s time and its number of centrifuges has expanded from 12,000 in 2012 to 19,000 today.
Sen. Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican whose Senate Banking Committee is considering legislation to tighten Iran sanctions, said the report shows that Iran is expanding its nuclear capabilities under the cover of negotiations.