Two May 30 reports on Iran’s nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) paint a dire picture. Iran has now produced over 43 kilograms of 60% highly enriched uranium (HEU). This is enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon if further enriched to 90%, a process that could take just a couple of weeks. Iran’s “breakout” time is thus below the margin of error for timely detection.
While it would take Iran several more months to fashion the HEU into a crude weapon, and perhaps two years to mount it on a missile, fissile material production is typically considered to be the long pole in making nuclear weapons — both the most visible and the most time-consuming step. For Iran, producing weapons-grade HEU is now the shortest pole.