The Institute for Science and International Security said Iran was moving steadily toward nuclear weapons capability. In a report, the institute said Tehran would reach this goal in 2009.

In a report titled “Has Iran Achieved a Nuclear Weapons Breakout Capability?” the institute said Iran has expanded operations of its gas centrifuges. The report said Iran was amassing enough centrifuges to produce a nuclear bomb every four months.

“Although some media reports in November 2008 concluded prematurely that Iran has reached a nuclear weapons capability, Iran is moving steadily toward this capability and is expected to reach that milestone during 2009 under a wide variety of scenarios,” the report said. “As Iran’s operation of its gas centrifuges has expanded and improved, there is growing focus on the quantity of low enriched uranium produced at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant.”

Authored by David Albright, Jacqueline Shire and Paul Brannan, the report said Iran requires at least 1,534 pounds of low-enriched uranium, or LEU, to achieve nuclear weapons capability. Last month, the IAEA said Tehran reported production of 937 pounds of enriched uranium.

“To produce sufficient material for a nuclear weapon, Iran would need to further enrich the LEU in centrifuge cascades, either at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant or an undeclared facility,” the institute said. “This enrichment can occur quickly and this process is referred to as ‘break-out.’ “

The report said Iran could rapidly remove LEU from storage to assemble a nuclear bomb. Under the scenario, Iran would deny access to IAEA inspectors.

“The ISIS estimate assumes an efficient, reliable centrifuge capability able to further enrich the LEU into weapon-grade uranium, a capability more likely to reside in a clandestine facility than at the Natanz enrichment plant,” the report said. “It also assumes that Iran would need about [45-55 lbs.] of weapon-grade uranium to fashion a crude nuclear weapon.

“The actual amount that Iran might require is unknown, but this range of values is sufficient for several designs of crude nuclear weapons, some of which are small enough to be mounted on ballistic missiles.”

The institute envisioned that Iran would operate 6,000 centrifuges in 2009, which would produce enough uranium for a nuclear bomb by the middle of the year.

Under the worst-case scenario, Tehran would reach a nuclear weapons capability toward the end of next year.

“If the cascades operate better than historically achieved levels, these dates could occur earlier,” the report said. “If the second module does not operate as well as the first one, these dates could be delayed by several months.”

David Bedein can be reached at dbedein@israelbehindthenews.com

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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