Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday that negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran will “test” Tehran’s nuclear intentions, and impose “fully verifiable” steps to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons. And yet, he has already given in to Iran’s most significant demand: that they be allowed to continue enriching uranium.
This is a fatal negotiating mistake, which could have deadly consequences.
Iran enriches uranium hexafluoride gas in fast-spinning centrifuges. Spin the centrifuges for a certain period, and you get low-enriched uranium, which can fuel a nuclear power plant. Spin them a bit longer, and you get weapons-grade uranium to make a bomb.
As long as they have the centrifuges and the enrichment plants, there is no inherent stopping point in the technology to prevent Iran from spinning up to weapons-grade uranium. It’s a bit like giving a teenager the keys to the Mustang on a Saturday night and asking him not to push it beyond 30 mph. Are you kidding?
Just like the teenager, all the Iranians have to do is step on the gas, and they will turn the corner to becoming a nuclear weapons state in little time. They don’t need to make any changes in their existing technology.
Over the past two years, Iran has made great strides in its enrichment capabilities. According to the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, the regime now has 19,000 centrifuges, including several thousand high-performance, new-generation machines they are still testing.
To date, they have produced more than 10,000 kilograms (22,000 pounds) of low-enriched uranium. With further enrichment, by most estimates, that is enough for roughly 10 bombs (or “significant quantities,” as the agency calls the amount of highly enriched uranium needed to make a crude, Hiroshima generation weapon). If Iran used a more efficient bomb design, it would be enough for many more.
One of the most respected nongovernmental experts on Iran’s nuclear programs, former Atomic Energy Agency inspector David Albright, has consistently argued that technological and management bottlenecks have slowed the Iranian bomb program considerably. Just two years ago, he questioned whether Iran’s main enrichment plant at Natanz was for real, or just an expensive “boondoggle.”
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