Iran is continuing to enrich and stockpile uranium and stands poised to amass enough fuel for its first nuclear weapon within a month, according to new findings from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) this week.
On Monday, the Institute for Science and International Security issued a report, based on the IAEA findings, that Iran is nearing weapons-grade levels of nuclear fuel. Under the most intense of nuclear development projections, Iran could have enough fuel for a nuclear weapon within a month. Other U.S. officials who have seen classified assessments of Iran’s nuclear program, told the New York Times that it could only take a few months for Iran to fuel its first nuclear weapon.
The Institute for Science and International Security further reported Iran could achieve enough fuel for a second nuclear weapon within three months and a third nuclear weapon within five months.
While Iran could be just weeks away from having enough fuel for its first nuclear weapon, the New York Times it could still take considerably longer for Iran to develop a warhead capable of carrying that fuel, fitting on an Iranian missile and surviving re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. Despite that next technological hurdle, Iran’s rapid stockpiling of nuclear fuel poses a challenge for the Biden administration as it seeks to negotiate a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
On Friday, David Albright, a former IAEA inspector and the founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, said Iran’s nuclear development signal an effort to pressure the U.S. into giving Iran more relaxed terms for returning to the 2015 nuclear deal.
“We have to be careful not to let them scare us,” Albright said.
The Biden administration has not yet commented on the most recent IAEA report out of Iran, but when asked about Iran during a trip to Germany on Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Iran is progressing so rapidly in its nuclear development that restoring the old 2015 nuclear deal may no longer be feasible.
“I’m not going to put a date on it,” Blinekn told the New York Times and other reporters, “but we are getting closer to the point at which a strict return to compliance” with the old deal “does not reproduce the benefits that agreement achieved.”
“As time goes on and as Iran continues to make advances in its nuclear program, including spinning more sophisticated centrifuges, enriching more material, learning more, there is a point at which it would be very difficult to regain all of the benefits,” Blinken added. “We’re not at that point yet, but it’s getting closer.”