Bloomberg: Iran Could Produce Nuclear Bomb in 16 Days, U.S. Says


Richard Moore

Iran Could Produce Nuclear Bomb in 16 Days, U.S. Says (Update2)

     April 12 (Bloomberg) -- Iran, defying United Nations Security 
Council demands to halt its nuclear program, may be capable of making 
a nuclear bomb within 16 days, a U.S. State Department official said.
     Iran will move to ``industrial scale'' uranium enrichment 
involving 54,000 centrifuges at its Natanz plant, the Associated 
Press quoted deputy nuclear chief Mohammad Saeedi as telling 
state-run television today.
     ``Using those 50,000 centrifuges they could produce enough highly 
enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in 16 days,'' Stephen 
Rademaker, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International 
Security and Nonproliferation, told reporters today in Moscow.
     Rademaker was reacting to a statement by Iranian President 
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said yesterday the country had succeeded in 
enriching uranium on a small scale for the first time, using 164 
centrifuges. That announcement defies demands by the UN Security 
Council that Iran shut down its nuclear program this month.
     The U.S. fears Iran is pursuing a nuclear program to make 
weapons, while Iran says it is intent on purely civilian purposes, to 
provide energy. Saeedi said 54,000 centrifuges will be able to enrich 
uranium to provide fuel for a 1,000-megawat nuclear power plant 
similar to the one Russia is finishing in southern Iran, AP reported.
     ``It was a deeply disappointing announcement,'' Rademaker said of 
Ahmadinejad's statement.
Weapons-Grade Uranium
     Rademaker said the technology to enrich uranium to a low level 
could also be used to make weapons-grade uranium, saying that it 
would take a little over 13 years to produce enough highly enriched 
uranium for a nuclear weapon with the 164 centrifuges currently in 
use. The process involves placing uranium hexafluoride gas in a 
series of rotating drums or cylinders known as centrifuges that run 
at high speeds to extract weapons grade uranium.
     Iran has informed the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy 
Agency that it plans to construct 3,000 centrifuges at Natanz next 
year, Rademaker said.
     ``We calculate that a 3,000-machine cascade could produce enough 
uranium to build a nuclear weapon within 271 days,'' he said.
     While the U.S. has concerns over Iran's nuclear program, 
Rademaker said ``there certainly has been no decision on the part of 
my government'' to use force if Iran refuses to obey the UN Security 
Council demand that it shuts down its nuclear program.
     Rademaker is in Moscow for a meeting of his counterparts from the 
Group of Eight wealthy industrialized countries. Russia chairs the 
G-8 this year.
     China is concerned about Iran's decision to accelerate uranium 
enrichment and wants the government in Tehran to heed international 
criticism of the move, Wang Guangya, China's ambassador to the United 
Nations said.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Sebastian Alison in Moscow at  •••@••.•••.
Last Updated: April 12, 2006 12:19 EDT

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