Analysis & Opinions - Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Ensuring Iran’s Enrichment R&D is for Peaceful Purposes

| January 26, 2017

Iran announced last week that it would start feeding its first IR-8 centrifuges with uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6). The 2015 Iran nuclear deal states that Tehran’s breakout time (the time needed to enrich uranium enough for a nuclear bomb) is one year, but that is based on Iran only using the first-generation, less-efficient IR-1 centrifuges. With more powerful IR-8s and other advanced centrifuges, Iran could enrich uranium for a weapon much faster. In three to four years, the country could be able to deploy large numbers of advanced centrifuges – if it can convince the international community that its nuclear program is peaceful and that it should be treated like any other nation, without restriction on its nuclear and enrichment activities.

The nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), adopted by the P5+1 negotiators allows testing of more advanced centrifuges under the rubric of enrichment research and development. However, while Iran submitted its uranium enrichment R&D plan to the IAEA, and the P5+1 endorsed the plan, the information has not been made public. As a result, independent experts cannot evaluate the implications of Iran’s uranium enrichment R&D program, nor estimate if (and when) Iran would be in a better position to break out from its nuclear commitments. Such a plan should be compatible with Iran's future needs of enriched uranium for its civilian nuclear power program.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Heinonen, Olli.“Ensuring Iran’s Enrichment R&D is for Peaceful Purposes.” Foundation for Defense of Democracies, January 26, 2017.

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