The Iranian nuclear program: timelines, data, and estimates

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz uranium enrichment facilities April 8, 2008, 200 miles south of Tehran.

Iran is at the threshold of a nuclear weapons capability. Sanctions, direct action, and diplomatic tools have neither changed Iran's nuclear policy nor had a visible effect on the enrichment program, including the growing stockpile of 19.75% LEU. Obtaining weapons-grade high-enriched uranium (HEU) is the most difficult and technically challenging obstacle to acquiring a nuclear weapon. Assessing the "breakout" time-the time required to convert low-enriched uranium (LEU) to weapons-grade HEU-is therefore a critical component of determining progress toward a nuclear weapons capability.    \

AEI's Critical Threats Project has produced a capabilities assessment of the time required for Iran to acquire enough weapons-grade uranium to fuel one nuclear weapon if it proceeds to break out in 2012. It does not assess Iran's intentions to weaponize or to purse break-out scenarios, but rather focuses entirely on technical feasibility. The assessment also provides scenarios for the growth of Iran's 19.75% LEU stockpile, background data on processes involved in a nuclear weapons program and Iran's reported progress, and imagery of the primary enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow.

Please read the full text at the Critical Threats Project.

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About the Author

 

Maseh
Zarif
  • Maseh Zarif is the deputy director and Iran research Team Lead for the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project. He works on national security issues related to the Middle East and South Asia, with a particular focus on Iran’s nuclear program and its regional activities. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, National Review Online, and Foreign Policy, among others, and has appeared on CNN and Fox. Before joining AEI, he worked for several years in corporate finance as an analyst and a consultant.

  • Phone: 202.862.5929
    Email: maseh.zarif@aei.org

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