NUCLEAR PROLIFERATIONThe Progress of Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program

Published 14 January 2022

As of November 2021, Iran had enough enriched uranium hexafluoride (UF6) in the form of near 20 and 60 percent enriched uranium to produce enough weapon-grade uranium (WGU), taken here as 25 kilograms, for a single nuclear weapon in as little as three weeks. It could do so without using any of its stock of uranium enriched up to 5 percent as feedstock. The growth of Iran’s stocks of near 20 and 60 percent enriched uranium has dangerously reduced breakout timelines.

The Institute for Science and International Security has issued the third edition of its authoritative Peddling in Peril (PPI 2021-2022), a comprehensive ranking of the effectiveness of national strategic trade controls. PPI 2021-2022 ranks 200 countries, territories, and entities according to their capabilities and demonstrated success in implementing export, import, transit, and transshipment controls of strategic goods and technologies. These controls are key to thwarting the spread of nuclear weapons, other destructive weapons, and the means to make them.

Here are the Institute’s five of the important findings about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

1) Iran can have enough weapon-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon in as little as three weeks.
As of November 2021, Iran had enough enriched uranium hexafluoride (UF6) in the form of near 20 and 60 percent enriched uranium to produce enough weapon-grade uranium (WGU), taken here as 25 kilograms, for a single nuclear weapon in as little as three weeks. It could do so without using any of its stock of uranium enriched up to 5 percent as feedstock. The growth of Iran’s stocks of near 20 and 60 percent enriched uranium has dangerously reduced breakout timelines.

See the Institute’s Analysis of IAEA Iran Verification and Monitoring Report – November 2021 — click here.

2) Iran could detonate a nuclear explosive underground in as little as six months, rattling the Middle East profoundly, destabilizing the region perhaps irretrievably.
Although Iran would need longer to field a credible, reliable nuclear-tipped ballistic missile, it knows enough to build a nuclear explosive and build an underground nuclear test site. While most of the public focuses on deliverable nuclear weapons, many lose sight of Iran’s extensive knowledge and experience in building nuclear weapons and the immense damage resulting from a nuclear explosion.

To learn more about Iran’s nuclear weapons expertise, read the Institute’s 19-page Highlights of Iran’s Perilous Pursuit of Nuclear Weapons, click here. To obtain Iran’s Perilous Pursuit of Nuclear Weapons as an e-book or a paperback, click here.

3) Iran has made key irreversible nuclear advances, perforating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, perhaps irretrievably.
With its multiple violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran has reached previously uncharted territory, accumulating important new knowledge, experience, and practice, representing a significant degree of nuclear capability banned to Iran by this point in time under the JCPOA. Its progress has collapsed the JCPOA’s overall purpose of keeping Iran twelve months from being able to produce enough weapon grade uranium for a nuclear weapon. If the JCPOA is simply revised rather than strengthened, as promised by the Biden Administration, it will be far weaker than before and a flimsy deterrent against Iran building nuclear weapons in the next decade.

See Iran’s Recent, Irreversible Nuclear Advances — click here.

4) Iran is mastering the construction and operation of advanced centrifuges far faster than anticipated.
Iran has rapidly increased its number of advanced centrifuges, so far doubling the number from before the JCPOA and planning to triple the pre-JCPOA quantity over the next several months. The most important advanced centrifuges today are the IR-2m, IR-4, and IR-6 centrifuges. Because of their far greater enrichment outputs, they are more useful in a speedier breakout to weapon-grade uranium or a more difficult to detect sneak out in a clandestine enrichment plant

See A Comprehensive Survey of Iran’s Advanced Centrifuges — click here.

5) Iran remains one of the most egregious violators of strategic trade controls and sanctions.
The Institute’s 2021/2022 Peddling Peril Index (PPI), the only public effort to comprehensively rank national strategic trade control systems ranks Iran as 196 out of 200, clustered with the likes of North Korea, South Sudan, and Yemen.

Overall, the Peddling Peril Index continues to present a troubling picture of the state of worldwide efforts to stop the illicit trade in goods critical to nuclear weapons, other WMD, and conventional arms.

See the Peddling Peril Index for 2021/2022 —  click here

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