Iran is on the cusp of being able to triple output of nuclear material that, if further treated, could be used in the core of a bomb, a new UN atomic agency report showed.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) quarterly update said that fitting out of the Fordo plant was now “complete” – despite extreme sanctions pressure.
Fordo, which Iran only told the IAEA about in 2009, began in 2011 to enrich uranium to purities of 20 percent, a process that lies at the heart of the international community’s concerns.
Enriched to this level, uranium can be used to produce medical isotopes – Iran’s stated intention – but when further enriched, a relatively easy process, it can go in a bomb.
If Iran uses the new machinery at Fordo to enrich uranium to 20-percent levels – it has not told the IAEA whether this is its aim technically – production could increase from 15 kilos per month now to around 45 kilos, a source said.
Experts say that around 250 kilos of 20-percent uranium is needed to convert into enough 90-percent material for one nuclear weapon.
However, deciding to “break out” and enrich to 90-percent would quickly be detected by the IAEA, likely sparking military action by Israel and the United States.
Making a bomb also requires a whole range of other activities such as working out how to get the fissile material to explode, and putting it in a warhead in a missile.
The IAEA’s findings “provide further troubling evidence that Iran is continuing to pursue sensitive nuclear fuel-cycle activities in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and is slowly enhancing its nuclear weapons breakout potential,” analyst Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association said.