Experts: Iran Will be '3 Weeks from a Nuclear Weapon'
Joe Cirincione, head of the American anti-nuclear proliferation group The Ploughshares Fund, told New Scientist that Iran currently has 8,000 kilograms of uranium enriched to the point where they can be used as nuclear fuel.
The centrifuges Iran has declared would be able to further enrich that quantity into a nuclear bomb within two to three months at present, he says.
But with the deal, during which Iran will be allowed to continue enriching at a reduced rate and conduct research that could let it improve its centrifuge technology, that breakout time will drop considerably.
According to Cirincione, with more advanced centrifuges achieved through the deal, Iran will be able to march to the bomb in a mere three weeks.
Aside from the danger of Iran getting enough nuclear material to build a bomb, the Islamic regime will also need to develop a warhead capable of containing the cataclysmic weapon.
Christopher Bidwell of the Federation of American Scientists told New Scientist that concerns about Iran's suspected warhead research are not even addressed in the framework deal, although he says the law requires that topic to be addressed in order for the US to lift sanctions.
"Sneak out" - worse than breakout
Iran has long operated its clandestine nuclear program, with many warning that it will deceive world powers and continue developing nuclear arms power covertly.
James Acton, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace located in Washington DC, gave further credence to those fears, saying that beyond nuclear breakout there is a greater threat of Iranian nuclear "sneak out."
A number of countries have tried to gain nuclear power since the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, he said, but instead of using breakout by which uranium is diverted from declared facilities, many have used "clandestine enrichment plants." One example of covert success has been North Korea.
Acton noted that both of Iran's enrichment plants started in exactly that manner.
In order for Iran to be blocked from secretly going nuclear, Bidwell said International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors must also be allowed in to undeclared nuclear facilities.
That would require Iran signing the 1997 Additional Protocol of the IAEA, allowing inspectors to visit any site at short notice, monitor non-nuclear materials used in the enrichment process, and perform environmental sampling for leaked radionuclides, he said.
But back in 2006 Iran stated clearly it will not sign the protocol.
What's more, Acton says the current situation may require further steps not included in the protocol, such as interviewing nuclear scientists, and monitoring all new centrifuge components.
The Arms Control Association think tank in Washington DC has called for inspectors to also be allowed to weigh Iran's uranium from the mine all the way to enrichment, so as to strictly make sure none is whisked away for covert development.