Earlier this year, the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project concluded that Iran could have the fuel for a single nuclear bomb by September. That is a frighteningly short time away but luckily, Iran would still have to construct the bomb and fit it onto a missile. The question is: Where is Israel’s red-line?
The think-tank determined that Iran could make enough 20% enriched uranium for a bomb by June. From there, it would take only “two and one half months” to make the fuel for a 15-kiloton weapon, roughly the power of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
This assessment is realistic. Top nuclear expert David Albright says that it would only take about 6 months to turn 20% enriched uranium into bomb-grade fuel if 500 to 1,000 centrifuges are used. In November, the IAEA reported that 412 centrifuges were installed at Fordow. It is presumed that Iran is adding more centrifuges as you read this. This supports the AEI study.
There are many more centrifuges at the Natanz site, but the Fordow site is of special concern. The site is clearly designed for nuclear weapons production, not a domestic energy program, and is buried deep in the mountains. There is a significant worry that Israeli munitions can’t destroy it. The IAEA recently reported that Iran has increased its stockpile of 20%-enriched uranium by nearly half, with over one-third of this increase coming from the Fordow site.
So, does Israel absolutely have to strike by September? Not necessarily, though Israel might reasonably decide it’s too dangerous to wait any longer.