AFP: Iran can deliver on its threat Tuesday to enrich uranium, said a regime opponent, who claimed the Islamic republic has the know-how and tools to make nuclear bombs within two or three years. WASHINGTON, April 11, 2006 (AFP) – Iran can deliver on its threat Tuesday to enrich uranium, said a regime opponent, who claimed the Islamic republic has the know-how and tools to make nuclear bombs within two or three years.
“Once they master the technique, then they will only be a screwdriver’s turn away from making fissile material for a bomb,” Alireza Jafarzadeh, of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, told AFP.
“Iran has about 5,000 centrifuges ready to be installed in (the) Natanz uranium enrichment facility,” he said, backing up claims by Iran’s hardline president.
On Tuesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad startled the world by announcing: “Our people, with the help of God, have successfully mastered nuclear technology. Iran has joined the nuclear states.”
Jafarzadeh claimed that Iran has the parts to assemble 5,000 centrifuges, used to separate fissile uranium. “Iran is one to three years away from making a bomb,” he said.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran has in the past provided accurate information on Iran’s secret nuclear programs, revealing in 2002 the existence of sites in Natanz and Arak, where the centrifuges are to be installed in underground halls, Jafarzadeh said.
The next step, he said, is to assemble more than a hundred centrifuges in a “cascade,” meaning that each successive machine furthers the enrichment of the previous one.
“The main barrier that Iran crossed is to work 164 together, which is the most difficult first step which Iran has overcome.
“The nuclear clock is rapidly ticking and we don’t have much time. Unless the international community acts now, Iran will eventually get a bomb,” Jafarzadeh said.
“The announcement that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made is very significant because it will give Iran the ability to enrich uranium beyond the experimental,” he said.
“The problem is that this is the first time that Iran was able to operate all those 5,000 centrifuge machines at once.”
Iran’s atomic energy chief said Tuesday that the Natanz plant had enriched uranium 235 to 3.5 percent, the purity required for civilian reactor fuel. Gholam Reza Aghazadeh also said that Iran has 110 tonnes of UF6 uranium gas ready for centrifuge separation.
Further fueling world fears was his statement that Iran would in three years build a heavy water reactor in Arak, which could also potentially produce plutonium for a trigger for a nuclear weapon.
The US government believes Iran is trying to obtain a nuclear bomb, but Iranian government officials have said the country’s nuclear program is peaceful.