Iran’s Nuclear Fuel Capability Set to Double
by Steven Emerson
Iran may be capable of doubling the number of centrifuges dedicated to enriching uranium within days. This was reported by one of three diplomats from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in conjunction with the issuance of the latest IAEA Iranian Safeguards report issued Friday.
An additional 700 centrifuges are believed to have been installed at the Fordow fuel enrichment plant near Qum. That brings the total number of centrifuges at Fordow to nearly 2,800, which would mean nearly 1,400 in operation at a given time at the facility. Fordow was designed to hold approximately 3,000 centrifuges so it is now near its capacity and is buried deep inside a mountain, making it a particularly hardened target.
The IAEA report noted a sharp increase in Iran’s supply of a more purified form of enriched uranium that can be more easily converted to weapon’s grade fissile material. This 20 percent uranium can quickly be converted to the highly enriched form used in weapons. Over the past three months, Iran’s supply of 20 percent uranium increased by nearly half.
It remains to be seen how these latest developments will impact Israel’s posture toward Iran and its nuclear program. In September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the United Nations General Assembly there was a “red line” on Iran’s nuclear program that would trigger Israeli military action. It’s believed that is the point Iran has amassed enough uranium, purified to a level of 20 percent, that could quickly be enriched further and be used to produce an atomic bomb.