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Iran Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran has resisted all efforts by the IAEA to cooperate and fully reveal its nuclear programs, providing what is known as both a correct and complete nuclear declaration, a necessary step in the IAEA process of determining that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful. Nonetheless, the IAEA has accumulated a large body of evidence that Iran is hiding nuclear materials and activities associated with its nuclear weapons program. In the last few years, the IAEA has discovered undeclared nuclear materials and activities at four sites in Iran: three called Marivan, Varamin, and Lavisan-Shian, are linked to facilities and activities of the Amad Plan and the fourth, Turquz-Abad, with current-day storage of Amad equipment and material. These discoveries are the tip of the iceberg of Iran’s nuclear weaponization capabilities, many kept intact after Amad’s halt. These capabilities collectively represent decades of accumulated equipment, knowledge, and experience, including the preservation of the extensive activities and accomplishments of the Amad Plan.

  • Rather than a traditional nuclear weapons program, Iran threatens the world with a program ready to produce nuclear weapons “on-demand.” Its readiness program poses a difficult challenge to the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
  • Due to its past, large-scale nuclear weapons program, called the Amad Plan, Iran has a readiness program with less need for secret nuclear weapon development activities. Iran has advanced its nuclear weapons readiness under civilian nuclear and military non-nuclear cover projects. Using a civilian cover, Iran has in recent years successfully produced highly enriched uranium (HEU) and near HEU metal.
  • Understanding the pace of Iran building nuclear weapons matters, in particular, for designing strategies against Iran moving to construct them.
  • A common fallacy is Iran would require 90 percent HEU, more commonly called weapon-grade uranium, to build nuclear explosives. Although Iran’s nuclear weapons designs have focused on 90 percent HEU and likely prefer that enrichment, modifying them for 60 percent HEU would be straightforward and well within Iran’s capabilities. 60 percent suffices to create a relatively compact nuclear explosive; further enrichment to 80 or 90 percent is not needed. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), 41.7 kg of 60 percent enriched uranium (uranium mass) is a significant quantity, which the IAEA defines as the “approximate amount of nuclear material for which the possibility of manufacturing a nuclear explosive