'Iran will have enough uranium by end of 2009'

But 'NY Times' says Iran lacks warhead technology; diplomats: IAEA report proves Iran's deception.

Ahmadinejad Natanz 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Ahmadinejad Natanz 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Iran will have enough highly enriched uranium by the end of 2009 to produce its first nuclear weapon, a former top official in the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission told The Jerusalem Post Thursday, refuting a New York Times article which claimed that the Islamic Republic already had sufficient nuclear material to create a weapon. Both the article and veteran Israeli nuclear expert Ephraim Asculai's remarks came in response to a report released Wednesday by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in which the United Nations nuclear watchdog claimed that, as of early this month, Iran had amassed 630 kilograms of low-enriched uranium (LEU). According to the IAEA report, Iran was enriching uranium with the just over 3,800 centrifuges it had installed in an underground facility in Natanz, and was working to install another 2,200 in the near future. Asculai said that Iran was also working on integrating a more advanced centrifuge into the facility, the P2, which it developed based on blueprints received from Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Kahn. The new centrifuge is capable of enriching uranium faster and to higher levels. The IAEA report was in line with a Military Intelligence assessment presented to the cabinet in September according to which Iran had about a third of the required HEU for a bomb. The New York Times quoted Richard L. Garwin, a top nuclear physicist who helped invent the hydrogen bomb, as saying that Iran had produced approximately enough nuclear material to assemble an atomic weapon. "They clearly have enough material for a bomb," said Garwin. "They know how to do the enrichment. Whether they know how to design a bomb, well, that's another matter." Asculai said Garwin's assessment was alarming but that ultimately Iran was still about a year away from obtaining enough HEU for its first nuclear weapon. "[The] IAEA set 25. kg of HEU as the quantity needed for a nuclear bomb," he said. "You don't extract 25. kg of HEU from 630 kg. of LEU. On the other hand, the distance is not far, and if not stopped before [that point] they will have enough HEU by the end of 2009."