This report summarizes and assesses information in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) quarterly safeguards report for September 7, 2022, Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), including Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Iran’s breakout time remains at zero. It has more than enough 60 percent enriched uranium, or highly enriched uranium (HEU) in the form of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) to directly fashion a nuclear explosive. If Iran wanted to further enrich its 60 percent HEU up to 90 percent weapons-grade uranium (WGU), used in Iran’s known nuclear weapons designs, it could do so within weeks utilizing only a few advanced centrifuge cascades.
Iran is learning important lessons in breaking out to nuclear weapons, including by experimenting with skipping typical enrichment steps as it enriches up to 60 percent uranium-235, and building and testing equipment to feed 20 percent enriched uranium and withdraw HEU. 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. It has used temporary feed and withdrawal setups to produce HEU from near 20 percent enriched uranium feed. Iran is also enriching uranium in one IR-6 cascade modified 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.
Combined with Iran’s refusal to resolve outstanding Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) safeguards violations, 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 remains greatly diminished.