The ABC News blog, the Blotter, is reporting that Iran will be capable of producing nuclear weapons by 2009. An excerpt:
Iran has more than tripled its ability to produce enriched uranium in the last three months, adding some 1,000 centrifuges which are used to separate radioactive particles from the raw material.
The development means Iran could have enough material for a nuclear bomb by 2009, sources familiar with the dramatic upgrade tell ABC News.
The sources say the unexpected expansion is taking place at Iran’s nuclear enrichment plant outside the city of Natanz, in a hardened facility 70 feet underground.
But is this breaking news? The NY Times reported the same thing on February 23rd:
The report appeared to confirm that the Iranian government was somewhat behind schedule in its nuclear ambitions: it boasted a year ago of plans to have roughly 3,000 centrifuges running by about now. But the 1,000 that it has nearly ready to run is still more than most outside experts believed it could install. If the country could operate 3,000 centrifuges continuously for a year, it could produce about one weapon’s worth of highly enriched uranium.
The Iranians say the cavernous underground halls will eventually hold 54,000 centrifuges, allowing the enrichment of uranium by the ton for reactor fuel rods — or, if the Bush administration’s fears come true, nuclear arms.
The atomic agency in its report said Iran had already moved into the cavernous halls nearly 10 tons of unenriched uranium — enough, nuclear experts said, to make at least one atom bomb. In all, at its sprawling plant at Isfahan, Iran has produced some 200 tons of uranium now ready for enrichment at Natanz. If turned into weapons-grade uranium, that would be enough for more than a dozen nuclear weapons.
Old news packaged as new news just in time for a 20/20 expose on Iran’s nuclear program.
The one interesting thing to come out of the 20/20 piece is a clip of DNI Mike McConnell saying, in testimony before the Senate, that Iran won’t have the capability to produce a nuclear weapon until 2015. Brian Ross didn’t give the date of his testimony in the clip, but I found the link here. (Page 50 of 63). The date is February 27th.
The one question that should be asked is that since McConnell must have known that Iran was making progress on the 1,000 centrifuges on Feb. 27th, what other factors are at work here that would keep Iran from having the bomb by 2009?