|Inside one of Iran's nuclear facilities [Image Source]|
Well guess what? Associated Press is running a major syndicated story today which argues strongly that Iran is already at the threshold of having weapons-grade uranium and Israeli doubts about this are wrong. It's called "Iran ready to ramp up nuke program", and here are some selected quotes:
- Iran is on the threshold of being able to create weapons-grade uranium at a plant it has heavily fortified against Israeli attack, diplomats told The Associated Press on Thursday, calling into question an Israeli claim that Iran had slowed its nuclear time table.
- One of three diplomats who discussed the issue said Iran was now technically ready within days to ramp up its production of 20 percent enriched uranium at its Fordo facility by nearly 700 centrifuges. That would double present output, and cut in half the time it would take to acquire enough of the substance needed to make a nuclear weapon, reducing it to just over three months.
- Such a move would raise the stakes for Israel, which has said it believes the world has until next summer to stop Iran before it can get nuclear material and implied it would have time to decide whether to strike Fordo and other Iranian nuclear facilities...
- All three diplomats are from member nations of the IAEA, which is scheduled to release its latest report on Iran's nuclear program as early as Friday. They demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss restricted information with reporters.
- Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak's assertion earlier this month that Iran has "essentially delayed their arrival at the red line by eight months," is in line with the timeframe laid out by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September, when he spoke at the U.N. General Assembly...
- Washington and its allies also fear that Iran is enriching uranium to reach the ability to make such arms...
- The Vienna-based IAEA, in its last report in August, said that Tehran had doubled the number of centrifuges at Fordo within three months to more than 2,000. Diplomats since then have told reporters that hundreds more have been installed, bringing the total to nearly 2,800, or full capacity for Fordo.
- Iran has a far larger enrichment plant at Natanz, in central Iran, which churns out uranium enriched below 4 percent. But the 20-percent material being produced at Fordo is of greater concern to the international community because it can be turned into weapons-grade uranium of 90 percent purity much more simply and quickly—and because the facility, near the holy city of Qom, is well protected against attack.
- Tehran "should be in a position to produce enough (material) for two or three" nuclear warheads by the summer, if does decide to double output in the next few weeks, said Olli Heinonen, the International Atomic Energy Agency's deputy director general in charge of the Iran file until 2010.