If Iran breaks its deal with the West tomorrow, the country would be only two to three weeks away from producing enough highly enriched uranium to assemble a nuclear weapon, according to Olli Heinonen, former deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Heinonen directed the safeguards division of the United Nations body charged with enforcing the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
He was asked Sunday on Aaron Klein’s WABC Radio show about the timeframe in response to statements from Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, who boasted last week that Tehran can nix its deal with the West and resume enriching uranium to 20-percent levels within one day if it so desires.
Heinonen responded that if Iran wanted it would currently take the country “two, three weeks to have enough uranium hexafluoride high-enriched for one single weapon.”
He told Klein: “If [Iran] in reality [abrogates the deal] tomorrow, they still have quite a substantial stock of uranium hexafluoride, which is enriched to 20 percent. … And then technically, when Iran has committed to this month to certain parts of the processes in such a way these tandem cascades are not anymore connected with each other, you can indeed put them back in one day’s time.
“So if this all happens in the next, let’s say, weeks, this is really true. They can start to produce 20-percent enriched uranium,” he said. “Now, in order to go fast for Iran, it actually needs to make several such tandem cascades. Not just those in Natanz and Fordow [nuclear plants]. They have to put perhaps some 6,000 centrifuges to work in this kind of a mode.”
Continued the former IAEA director: “If they do that, which they can technically do, it will take certainly a little bit more than one night to do. But then once they have sorted it out, it would take about two, three weeks to have enough uranium hexafluoride high-enriched for one single weapon.”
Heinonen explained that as time elapses and Iran converts more of its 20-percent enriched uranium to five percent, as is required by the U.S.-backed deal, the two to three week timeframe to produce a nuclear weapon will expand.
He said that if Iran keeps its side of the deal then in six months from now “it will take at least three months” more to enrich enough uranium to assemble a nuclear weapon.
Listen to the interview itself below: