Dr. Olli Heinonen, a former deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), warned Monday that Iran's pursuit of military-grade nuclear capability has passed the point of no return.
According to a report in The Tower Magazine, Heinonen has reviewed the latest Institute for Science and International Security report assessing Tehran's nuclear progress, saying that Iran's use of its existing lineup of 19,000 IR-1 centrifuges and its plans to install an additional 3,000 IR-2 centrifuges in its enrichment facilities have reduced its breakout time -- the amount of time that would elapse between a decision to manufacture a nuclear weapon and actually possessing one -- to just a few weeks.
“You have to have seen the ISIS report from David Albright last week, which now says that this breakout time can be one month. And I believe that if certain arrangements are made, it can even go down to two weeks. So there are a lot of concerns out there, which hopefully Iran addresses in this new phase, both with the P5+1 and with the IAEA,” he said.
In the latest round of the nuclear negotiations between the West and the Islamic republic, Iran has insisted that it will not give up its 3.5 percent low enriched uranium or suspend its pursuit of enrichment technology. This position, as well as the fact that Iran has spent much of the last year installing more sophisticated centrifuges in its nuclear enrichment facilities, may complicate Tehran's efforts to allay the international community's concerns about its nuclear program.
Heinonen, a senior fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, stressed that Iran’s stockpile of 3.5% enriched material, puts the regime more than halfway toward “what you need to do in order to produce weapons-grade uranium,” which is pegged at 20% enriched material.
On Saturday, Israel dismissed as “irrelevant” reports that Iran had halted its most sensitive uranium enrichment activity, and said Tehran's nuclear program must be dismantled.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Iran's apparent willingness to suspend uranium enrichment to 20% percent was irrelevant, as the country now possessed the technology to enrich uranium from 3.5% to 90% within a few weeks.
Netanyahu urged the international community to keep the sanctions imposed on Iran in place, saying, “We have to increase the pressure on Iran because it continues to enrich uranium even while it negotiates.”