Israel Says Iran Has Doubled 60% Enriched Uranium Stockpile Since March

Defense minister Gantz warns Iran is now weeks away from accumulating sufficient material to construct a nuclear bomb

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Defense Minister Benny Gantz at a conference in Jerusalem, February.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz at a conference in Jerusalem, February.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Israel's defense minister, Benny Gantz, warned Tuesday that Tehran has doubled its stores of 60% enriched uranium over the past two months, and that the country is weeks away from having stockpiled sufficient material to construct its first nuclear bomb.

Iran holds about 60 kilograms of 60% enriched uranium, Gantz said in a speech at Reichman University near Tel Aviv – a number that compares with the 33 kilograms figure reported by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last March.

To produce a single nuclear bomb, 25 kilograms of uranium must be enriched to 90%.

Gantz also warned that Iran is close to completing about a thousand advanced IR6 centrifuges at new underground sites being built near its Natanz nuclear plant, and that it is accumulating knowledge and experience in development, research, production and operation of these centrifuges that will be "irreversible."

Satellite image of Iran's Natanz nuclear site, March.Credit: Planet Labs PBC /AP

These figures appeared to go beyond those published by the IAEA in March. The UN watchdog said then that Iran had installed or planned to install a total of three IR6 cascades, amounting to around 660 machines.

Centrifuges are used to purify uranium for civilian projects or, at higher levels, to make bomb fuel. Iranian progress in the field is being watched by world powers trying to resurrect a nuclear deal with Tehran, which denies having military designs.

IAEA chief Rafael Grossi said last month that the new underground Natanz workshop was an apparent precaution taken against attacks.

In his remarks, Gantz alluded to Israel's long-standing threat to take military action if it deems diplomacy is at a dead end to deny its arch-enemy the means to make nuclear weapons.

"The cost of such a future war, which we hope will not happen, can be prevented or reduced" with tougher negotiations by world powers, he said.

Gantz also said in his remarks that Iran has significantly increased its numbers of long-range precision missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the past year, which he assesses Iran intends to hand to Palestinian militant organizations in Gaza and the West Bank.

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