Uranium Enrichment Planning
Iran plans eventually to install about 50,000 machines and to install the centrifuges in modules of 3,000 machines that would be designed to produce low enriched uranium for power reactors. In a case where just 1,500 of these centrifuges were installed and optimized to produce HEU, these centrifuges could produce enough highly enriched uranium for about one nuclear weapon per year.
When completed, the FEP could be used to produce roughly 500 kilograms of weapon-grade uranium annually. At 15-20 kilograms per weapon, that would be enough for 25-30 nuclear weapons per year.
Each of Iran‘s centrifuges has an output between 2-3 SWU/year (Seperative Work Unit per Year). Iran Is planning a full scale FEP at Natanz which will eventually house 50,000 centrifuges, giving the plant a capacity of 150,000 SWU/year—enough for annual reloads of LEU for the Bushehr reactor or, if configured differently, 25-30 nuclear weapons worth of HEU per year.
One centrifuge could produce some 30 grams of HEU per year which is equivalent to 5 SWU. As a general
rule of thumb, a cascade of 850 to 1000 centrifuge, each around 1.5 meters long operating at 400 m/sec would be able to produce about 20 to 25 kg of HEU per year, enough for one HEU bomb.
Timeline until Iran produces it‘s first Nuclear Weapon
The question is how quickly could Iran assemble and operate 1,500 to 4,000 centrifuges in an accelerated Program to make enough HEU for at least one 15 – 20 kg nuclear bomb.
Mark Fitzpatrick. Survival Vol 48 no.3 Autumn 2006. Assessing Iran’s Nuclear program.
IISS in September 2005 assessed that earliest Iran could produce sufficient HEU is by 2010. This is achieved by Iran constructing under IAEA supervision 3,000 centrifuge cascades, then when it is ready for full operation, expels the inspectors and uses the cascades for HEU production. Assembling this many centrifuges and getting them working would take until 2009. With 3,000 centrifuges it would take 9 months at the earliest for Iran to produce 25 kg HEU deemed necessary for a simple implosion Device.
BBC Interview with US Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte (2 June 2006)
Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte told BBC Radio's Today programme:
" Tehran could have a nuclear bomb ready between 2010 and 2015.We don't have a clear-cut Knowledge but the estimate we have made is some time between the beginning of the next decade and the middle of the next decade they might be in a position to have a nuclear weapon, which is a cause of great concern."
David Albright and Corey Hinderstein, ISIS, Iran’s Next Steps.
The timeline created:
- Assemble 1,300 – 1,600 centrifuges. Assuming Iran starts (in January 2006) assembling centrifuges at
a rate of 70-100 per month, Iran will have enough centrifuges in 6-9 months., by late 2006.
- Combine centrifuges into cascades, install control equipment, building feed and withdrawal systems, And test the Fuel Enrichment Plant. 1yaer.
- Enrich enough HEU for a nuclear weapon (1 Year).
- Weaponize the HEU, about 3 YEARS.
- Thus total time to build the first bomb would be about 3 YEARS, or by 2009.