How Close is Iran Nuclear Bomb? IAEA Chief Hints at Tehran's Progress in Uranium Enrichment

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said that Iran is short of 'significant quantity' of potential bomb material. What can be read between the lines is that Tehran has made advances in pursuit of its alleged clandestine nuclear weapons program.

By 'significant quantity' IAEA means the ballpark amount of nuclear material with which the making of a nuclear explosive device cannot be excluded.

"The Iranians continue to enrich uranium, and to a much higher degree than they have committed themselves to. And this amount is growing by the month," IAEA chief Rafael Grossi told Die Presse told an Austrian newspaper.

Iran nuclear programme
ran Nuclear Deal Talks: US Secretary of State John Kerry (L), US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (2L), Robert Malley (3L), of the US National Security Council, European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini (C), Head of Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation Ali Akbar Salehi (2R) Reuters

Iran has consistently argued that its nuclear is purely for energy purposes and that it is not in pursuit of a nuclear weapons program.

The Iran nuclear deal, which was negotiated under former US President Barack Obama, was scrapped by President Donald Trump after he came to power. Following this, the Iranian nuclear policy veered around to keeping a window open.

30 Advanced IR-6 Centrifuges

In November last year, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani himself said the country was kickstarting the stalled nuclear program. He said uranium was to be injected into 1,044 centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility.

Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi confirmed that 30 advanced IR-6 centrifuges were to be launched in a move to accelerate the uranium enrichment process, which was in clear violation of the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal.

"We can't unilaterally accept that we completely fulfil our commitments and they don't follow up on their commitments ... But at the same time, when they uphold their commitments, we will cut off the gas again...So it is possible to reverse this step ... We know their sensitivity with regard to Fordow ... With regards to these centrifuges, we know," Rouhani had said at that time in a televised speech.

Salehi said at that time that his nuclear scientists were developing a centrifuge prototype that is 50 times faster than the ones allowed under the deal with the US. Rouhani added that Iran must thank its enemies for giving it the opportunity to further improve its nuclear technology.

'Soon to Have Enough Fissile Material for a Nuclear Weapon'

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has said Iran is not in a nuclear race and a weapon will never be made. However, the world is skeptical about the promise.

A senior US official said last month that Iran could possess enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon by the end of 2020. He also added that Tehran is getting the help of North Korea in developing long-range missiles.

"Iran is clearly doing everything it can to keep in existence a virtual turnkey capability to get back into the weaponization business at a moment's notice should it choose to do so," the unnamed US official told Reuters.