Sunday, October 31, 2010

National Intelligence Estimate and Capabilities Nuclear Iran

We assess centrifuge enrichment is how Iran probably could first produce enough fissile material for a weapon, if it decides to do so. Iran resumed its declared centrifuge enrichment activities in January 2006, despite the continued halt in the nuclear weapons program. Iran made significant progress in 2007 installing centrifuges at Natanz, but we judge with moderate confidence it still faces significant technical problems operating them.

We judge with moderate confidence that the earliest possible date Iran would be technically capable of producing enough HEU for a weapon is late 2009, but that this is very unlikely. We judge with moderate confidence Iran probably would be technically capable of producing enough HEU for a weapon sometime during the 2010-2015 time frame. (INR judges Iran is unlikely to achieve this capability before 2013 because of foreseeable technical and programmatic problems.) All agencies recognize the possibility that this capability may not be attained until after 2015.

A growing amount of intelligence indicates Iran was engaged in covert uranium conversion and uranium enrichment activity, but we judge that these efforts probably were halted in response to the fall 2003 halt, and that these efforts probably had not been restarted through at least mid-2007.

We judge with high confidence that Iran will not be technically capable of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015. We assess with high confidence that Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do so.

Iran "hasn't really" added any further centrifuges to refine enriched uranium, which is required for use in nuclear reactors or weapons, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei said on Tuesday.  ElBaradei said he thought the reason for this was political. The IAEA said in its latest report in November that Iran had not boosted the number of centrifuges regularly refining uranium since reaching a level of 3,800 in September. "They haven't really been adding centrifuges, which is a good thing," ElBaradei told reporters. "Our assessment is that it's a political decision."

If Iran could operate the 3,800 installed centrifuges, it could produce enough HEU for a minimum of one implosion weapon each year. The IISS in a study ―Iran‘s Strategic Weapons Programmes : A Net Assessment.‖ 2005, states that a cascade of 1000 P1 centrifuges could produce 25 kg HEU weapons grade in 2.2 to 2.7 years, whereas a cascade of 3000 P1 centrifuges could produce the same amount between 271 – 330 days.

There is no reason to believe that Iran could not be capable of installing an additional 3,000 centrifuges in 2009, which would result in Iran having the capability to produce HEU for 2 to 4 nuclear bombs per year.Eventually, the 50,000 centrifuges planned to be installed in the Natanz Facility could produce around 500 kg of HEU per year, which is enough for about 25 – 30 nuclear bombs a year.


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