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Iran's nuclear facility at Bushehr
Iran’s nuclear facility at Bushehr

The key question in the framework of the nuclear negotiations with Iran is how long before the Iranians can produce an operation nuclear bomb

When it comes to producing its operational nuclear weaponry, Iran continues to pull the wool over the Western powers’ eyes in the framework of endless negotiations. The Iranians are willing to discuss terms such as “uranium enrichment” in the context of “peaceful energy production” and other issues whose very title masks the truth. Nevertheless, one essential key question continues to be completely ignored: how long will it really take Iran to produce all the technological components required to build a bomb – including the time required to convert uranium from a 20% enrichment level to a level of 90%, and how long will it take the Iranians to pass the all-important threshold, which experts refer to as “breakout”, namely the capability to complete all the necessary actions for building a miniaturized operational bomb, and not only a large nuclear device for the purpose of underground testing. Western nuclear experts claim that “if all the components are ‘properly’ ready, the “breakout” process may take as little as two months”.

A while back, it became clear the Iranians have been introducing foils and decoys into the array of figures related to the nuclear issue, in order to further complicate any possible clear answer as to the question of “breakout”. A few weeks ago, the semi-official Iranian website published details of a “study” on the period of time required for the “breakout” phase.

iHLS Israel Homeland Security

This study, whose professional credentials are under suspicion given the political elements behind the site, claims it would take Iran at least 18 months to produce a bomb based on 25kg of military grade uranium, and at least 5-7 years to produce a plutonium bomb based on the plutonium produced in the facility at Arak. Based on the figures cited by the study – details of which have been published by the Institute for Science and International Security, headed by David Albright, a former senior International Atomic Energy Committee – the “breakout” time in the case of a uranium bomb is merely 2-3 months.

Expert assessments of the study rule out any clear answer at present, whether Iran intends to produce a major nuclear device which will be tested in the course of an underground explosion. It is equally unclear whether Iran intends to follow a different route, namely to miniaturize the bomb so that it may be assembled on an intercontinental ballistic missile such as Shahab. Most experts in the West estimate Iran is planning a device rather than a miniaturized bomb. One way or the other, it cannot be ignored that Iranian decoy experts continue to claim Iran has never taken the decision to produce an atom bomb, and that they are merely working on energy production.

From Israel’s point of view, it is highly important, especially now, to bear in mind and never lose sight of one basic fact: at a time the Western World is preoccupied with the conflicts in the Middle East and with ISIS and its megalomaniac plans to Islamize the whole world, Iran continues, steadfast and resolute, on its course towards acquiring nuclear weapons. For this reason, it is hard to predict how the negotiation between the West and Iran will unfold. Nevertheless, one thing must be absolutely clear: from the point of view of the Western world, the question of “breakout” must be an integral and substantial part of the final agreement – if and when reached.