The Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has staked a great deal of his leadership in the delivery of a nuclear power program to the Iranian people, which has led him to jump the gun with unbridled hyperbole about Iran’s achievements.
What is becoming all to obvious however, is that Iran are further away from achieving these goals than Ahmadinejad and the Neocrazies at the American Enterprise Institute would have us believe.
But many experts and officials cast doubt on Iran’s claim, including an assertion that it had fed gaseous uranium into 3000 centrifuges to begin purifying nuclear material on an industrial scale.
Independent experts largely portrayed the Iranian claim as a political statement designed to bolster its international and domestic stature, rather than an indication that Tehran has reached a significant new milestone in its nuclear program.
Jeffrey Lewis puts things in perspective very well for us.
Three things worth keeping in mind, before you sell that nice little townhouse on Logan Circle and relocate to Montana:
- 1,000 P1 centrifuges (assuming 2 kg SWU per machine) operating continuously require 23-29 months to enrich enough uranium for a bomb; 3,000 P1 centrifuges would take 8-10 months. Either way, we’ve still got time, probably two years assuming the centrifuges can operate continuously.
- Iran still does not operate its centrifuges continuously. Based on Iran’s past consumption of UF6, Iran feeds gas into its centrifuges only about 20 percent of the time, suggesting the machines are either breaking down or that Iran cannot use its own UF6 as feedstock.
- There is no evidence that Iran can mass produce the components of 3,000 centrifuges. The Iranians can claim mass production, but I want to see the evidence that Iran can mass produce ball bearings and maraging steel bellows for the P1. Diplomats have been saying Iran imported enough components for about 1,000 to 2,000 centrifuges. So, my guess is that Iran can make today’s announcement with what they bought from AQ Khan; they may run into problems when they try to push past that number.