Iran Can Produce One Nuclear Weapon in as Little as Three Weeks

·  Iran experimented with using near 20 percent enriched uranium as feed in advanced centrifuges at the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP), likely gaining important new knowledge in producing highly enriched uranium (HEU) using advanced centrifuges. This is also the first time Iran has started feeding a centrifuge cascade with uranium enriched more than 5 percent at any of its three enrichment plants, possibly gaining additional, irreversible knowledge in setting up and using equipment designed for smaller feed quantities and higher enriched uranium feed.

·  In essence, Iran is effectively breaking out slowly by producing 60 percent enriched uranium and continuing to accumulate it. As of November 6, Iran had a stock of 17.7 kg of near 60 percent enriched uranium (in uranium mass or U mass), or 26.1 kg (in hexafluoride mass). If Iran accumulated about 40 kg of 60 percent enriched uranium (U mass), it would have enough to be able to further enrich it and quickly produce 25 kg of weapon-grade uranium (U mass) in just a few advanced centrifuge cascades.

·  Alternatively, 40 kg of 60 percent enriched uranium is more than enough to fashion a nuclear explosive directly, without any further enrichment, although Iran’s known nuclear weapons designs use WGU.

·  Iran’s current production rate of 60 percent enriched uranium is 42 kg per year (U mass), meaning that it could accumulate its first amount of 40 kg in about 6.4 months, or by the spring of 2022.

·  Iran is learning important lessons in producing WGU and breaking out to nuclear weapons by experimenting with skipping typical enrichment steps as it enriches up to 60 percent uranium-235. It is starting from a level below 5 percent LEU and enriching directly to near 60 percent in one cascade, rather than using two steps in between, a slower process entailing the intermediate production of 20 percent enriched uranium. Iran is also implementing a plan to allow IR-6 cascades to switch more easily from the production of 5 percent enriched uranium to 20 percent enriched uranium. As such, Iran is experimenting with multi-step enrichment while seeking to shortcut the process.

·  Iran is also improving its ability to recycle tails from its 60 percent enriched uranium production, recovering about 50 percent of the needed 5 percent LEU feed and producing tails closer to 2 percent enriched uranium.

·  The production rate of 20 percent enriched uranium at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) and PFEP remained constant for this reporting period, at a monthly average of 13.2 kg (U mass), or 19.5 kg (hex mass).

·  As of November 6, 2021, Iran had an IAEA-estimated stock of 113.8 kg of 20 percent enriched uranium (U mass and in the form of UF6), an increase from the previous reporting period’s 84.3 kg of 20 percent enriched uranium in UF6 form. Iran also has an additional stock of 34.2 kg (U mass) of 20 percent uranium in other chemical forms.

·  In a new development, as of November 9, 2021, Iran installed 166 IR-6 centrifuges in a cascade at the FFEP. It also has a total of 23 IR-6 centrifuges in a second cascade. At the end of the last reporting period, only ten IR-6 centrifuges had been installed in this second cascade. The installation of advanced centrifuges at the FFEP enhances Iran’s ability to break out using a declared but highly fortified facility.

·  Using uranium metal, Iran made 20 percent uranium silicide and two fuel plates using the new silicide fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR). The fuel has yet to undergo quality control, but Iran’s production of this type of fuel plate is unnecessary and a major violation of the JCPOA. It is likely a pretext to add to its nuclear weapons capabilities.

·  The number of enriching IR-1 cascades and IR-2m cascades at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) appears to have almost fully recovered from a sabotage incident in April. Iran has installed 31 cascades of IR-1 centrifuges, six cascades of IR-2m centrifuges, and two cascades of IR-4 centrifuges at the FEP. Of those, as of November 13, 28 IR-1 cascades, six IR-2m cascades, and two IR-4 cascades “were being fed” with uranium.

·  Iran’s current operating enrichment capability is estimated to be about 12,400 separative work units (SWU) per year, compared to 11,700 SWU per year at the end of the last reporting period.

·  Iran’s total usable stock of below 5 percent LEU decreased just slightly compared to the previous reporting period. This stock did not change much because its increased use as feed to produce 60 percent enriched uranium at the PFEP was offset by a simultaneous increase in production at the PFEP.

·  Near 5 percent LEU production during this reporting period, which spanned 69 days at the Natanz FEP, totaled 339 kg (U mass), with a daily average production rate of 4.9 kg (U mass), a slight decrease from the previous reporting period’s daily average production rate of 5.26 kg (U mass). This reflects Iran’s slightly increased enrichment capacity at the FEP, combined with its reverting to natural uranium feed rather than 2 percent LEU feed, which Iran had used intermittently during the previous reporting period.

·  The IAEA report does not discuss the status of Iran’s construction of a new advanced centrifuge assembly facility in a tunnel near the main Natanz complex.

·  As noted in a separate IAEA report,3 and independent of problems caused by Iran’s suspension of the AP and JCPOA monitoring, Iran has failed to cooperate with the IAEA regarding the agency’s finding of uranium particles at three undeclared sites and answer questions about a fourth site, leading Director General Grossi to state, “The lack of progress in clarifying the Agency’s questions concerning the correctness and completeness of Iran’s safeguards declarations seriously affects the ability of the Agency to provide assurance of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”

·  Iran has not turned over to the IAEA a missing recording unit and storage data from a camera that was destroyed at the TESA (or TABA) centrifuge manufacturing facility near Karaj, the site of a sabotage event in June.4 Iran has also not permitted the IAEA to re-install cameras at the site, reneging on a September 2021 agreement with the IAEA to permit the IAEA to service measurement devices and video cameras at the Karaj site and other nuclear sites. The IAEA states the agreement did not exclude the Karaj facility.

·  Around five months have passed since the IAEA has had video monitoring at the TESA facility, raising concern that the IAEA cannot restore continuity of knowledge of events at the site. The IAEA has not had insight into how many advanced centrifuges Iran has made at the site since February, and therefore no awareness of whether Iran has diverted advanced centrifuges to a secret storage site, or for that matter, a clandestine enrichment plant.

·  Even if Iran continues to permit the IAEA to service agency equipment, the verification process may now face such serious gaps that it is impossible to restore the IAEA’s continuity of knowledge of Iran’s nuclear activities, which is so vital to verification.

·  Combined with outstanding safeguards issues in Iran, the IAEA has a significantly reduced ability to monitor Iran’s complex and growing nuclear program, which notably has unresolved nuclear weapons dimensions. The IAEA’s ability to detect diversion of nuclear materials, equipment, and other capabilities to undeclared facilities has greatly diminished.