In their first appraisal of Iran’s nuclear program, since President Obama took office, atomic inspectors have found that Iran recently understated by a third how much uranium it has enriched, UN officials recently said.
The officials declared that Tehran has now amassed more than a ton of 20% enriched uranium, and now has enough, with added purification, to make an atom bomb. In a report issued in Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency said it had discovered an additional 460 pounds of low-enriched uranium, a third more than Iran had previously disclosed. The agency made the find during its annual physical inventory of nuclear materials at Iran’s sprawling desert enrichment plant at Natanz.
Independent nuclear weapons experts expressed surprise at the disclosure, and criticized the atomic inspectors for making independent checks on Iran’s progress only once a year. “It is worse than we thought,” Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, said in an interview. “It’s alarming that the actual production was underreported by a third.”
The Obama administration has recently acknowledged Iran is making improvements in terms of mastering the efficiency of their centrifuge production. Officials also acknowledged there is suspicion Iran could have additional uranium enrichment sites that inspectors had not seen or heard about. Experts are concerned about the possibility of Iran pursuing a clandestine capability. The Iranians have actually made more than 460 pounds of enriched uranium than previously disclosed. This amounts to an increase of one third more than reported.
In front of the UN General Assembly, in September, 2012, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu predicted Iran would have enough low grade enriched uranium to build a bomb, by Spring of 2013. As Charles Krauthammer recently said on Fox News, “Netanyahu warned Iran would cross his “red line” in the spring or summer. Well, spring starts next week.”
The possible showdown with Israel approaches as Iran attempts to run out the clock, and become a nuclear weapons nation. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that new centrifuges Iran was installing for its uranium enrichment program could cut by a third the time needed to create a nuclear bomb. "Iran's ... nuclear weapons program continues unabated ... I drew a line at the U.N. last time I was there," Netanyahu said. "They haven't crossed that line but what they are doing is to shorten the time that it will take them to cross that line, new faster centrifuges cut the time by one third."
President Obama told an Israeli television station on Thursday that his administration believed it would take Iran “over a year or so” to develop a nuclear weapon, and he vowed that the United States would do whatever was necessary to prevent that from happening. Less than a week before his first visit as president to Israel, Mr. Obama pledged to continue diplomatic efforts, but he promised that the United States would keep all options on the table to ensure that Iran did not become a nuclear threat to its neighbors.
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