From Uranium Enrichment to Bomb in 12 months, Expert Says

From Uranium Enrichment to Bomb in 12 months, Expert Says

From the time Iran masters the enrichment of uranium, it could be as little as 12 months until the Islamic Republic is able to field an operational nuclear weapon, an Israeli professor said this week.

Professor Gerald Steinberg of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) said that separating the fissile material from natural uranium through enrichment “is a very difficult technical process,” but once Iran has learned how to do it with small amounts, “it is much easier to expand this into a larger operation.”

Steinberg said that Iran may already possess all the other components necessary for building a bomb – making enrichment of a sufficient quantity of uranium the final hurdle to deploying an operational nuclear weapon.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni agrees that the “crucial moment” will happen before the first bomb is produced.

“The crucial moment is not the day of the bomb. The crucial moment is the day in which Iran will master the enrichment, the knowledge of enrichment,” Livni said in a CNN interview on Sunday.

Iran’s efforts to enrich uranium has topped diplomatic agendas for months, with Washington and its European allies trying everything short of economic sanctions to convince Tehran to discontinue the critical process.

When an August 31 U.N.-imposed deadline to halt uranium enrichment passed without Iranian compliance, the Bush administration said it was time to take harsher measures.

Livni concurred. “The world cannot afford a nuclear Iran,” she said. “I believe that this is the time for sanctions.”

Professor Efraim Inbar, BESA director, agrees that the technology for producing fissile material is a “critical threshold for becoming nuclear.”

Inbar said he suspects Iran already has obtained the technology to pass the next threshold – bomb design – from the Pakistani source that sold spare parts from his own country’s nuclear weapons program to Iran, North Korea and Libya three years ago.

Steinberg added that if the Iranians run into technical difficulties while expanding the enrichment “process, which is likely, it may take them another year or two.”

Regardless of how long the process takes, French President Jacques Chirac Monday appeared determined to give Iran the space it needs as he pursues an elusive diplomatic solution to the crisis.

“I don’t believe in a solution without dialogue,” Chirac told Europe-1 radio, suggesting that a group of six nations – the U.S., Britain, Russia, China, Germany and France – “renounce referring (Iran to) the U.N. Security Council, and that Iran renounce uranium enrichment during negotiations.”

Washington is demanding that Iran halt uranium enrichment as a precondition to talks, or face punitive action by the international community.

But chances of that happening seemed to dissipate last week when the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), accused Washington of submitting false claims regarding the progress of Iran’s uranium enrichment efforts.

IAEA officials wrote in a letter obtained by Reuters that the American report, in which Washington accused U.N. inspectors of purposely concealing the advanced stage of Iran’s nuclear program, was “outrageous and dishonest.”

Earlier this month, Israeli officials cautioned that if the international community’s indecision and lack of action in the face of the looming Iranian threat continues, the Jewish state may find itself with no choice but to take matters into its own hands.

Share this post