Iran has come within one month of having enough material to fuel a nuclear weapon, according to recent data published earlier in September by the United Nations’ atomic inspection group, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The IAEA warned that Iran’s enrichment of nuclear fuel to near weapons-grade levels has given the country the capability to produce enough fuel to power a single nuclear warhead within one month at the earliest, The New York Times reported Monday. But the inspection group noted manufacturing an actual nuclear warhead would take much longer.
A report published Monday by the Institute for Science and International Security, which further studied the IAEA’s findings, similarly concluded that Iran can produce enough fuel for a single weapon in “as short as one month.” Iran can also produce enough fuel for a second weapon in less than three months, and a third weapon in less than five months, the researchers found.
Iran has not been this close to producing a nuclear weapon since before the nuclear deal introduced in 2015 under former President Barack Obama. The country has been expanding its nuclear operations over the past three years. Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and reimposed sanctions.
Iran’s former top nuclear official, Ali Akbar Salehi, announced in January that Iran will resume uranium enrichment at the Fordo underground nuclear facility. Iran’s government also said it planned to enrich uranium at levels of 20% or higher, far greater than the 3.67% cap imposed under the 2015 nuclear deal.
A negotiator for Iran’s government later announced in April that the country will begin enriching uranium to 60%, its highest level ever. Although 60% is still short of weapons-grade level, the ramping up of enrichment has brought Iran much closer to producing a nuclear weapon. (RELATED: Iran Says They Are Ready For Nuclear Talks But Without ‘Western Pressure’)
The change in Iran’s nuclear policy has also created a conundrum for President Joe Biden as his administration attempts to restart negotiations on the Iran nuclear deal.
Asked about Iran during a trip to Germany, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that the Islamic Republic’s progress had been so quick that restoring the Obama-era deal could soon be unfeasible.
“I’m not going to put a date on it,” he told reporters, according to The New York Times. “But we are getting closer to the point at which a strict return to compliance … does not reproduce the benefits that agreement achieved.”