December 27, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran Triples Production of Highly Enriched Uranium

December 27, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran Triples Production of Highly Enriched Uranium

Latest Developments

Iran has tripled its production of 60 percent enriched uranium over the past five weeks, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported on December 26. Sixty percent enriched uranium, also known as highly enriched uranium (HEU), can be used to fuel a nuclear explosive device, though Iran likely prefers to produce 90 percent enriched uranium, known as weapons-grade, for a bomb due to its smaller mass. By amassing 60 percent HEU, Iran creeps closer to 90 percent. The regime requires just seven days to further enrich 60 percent HEU so that the HEU reaches 90 percent for a first nuclear weapon.

Expert Analysis

“President Biden’s failed Iran policy has emboldened Tehran to expand its nuclear program and attack U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria. Biden must restore deterrence with overwhelming military strikes and financial sanctions on the Islamic Republic and its proxies.” Anthony Ruggiero, Senior Director of FDD’s Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program and Senior Fellow

“Iran is using all available tools — including nuclear blackmail — to pressure the United States into curtailing Israel’s offensive in Gaza. That Tehran feels emboldened to ramp up production of highly enriched uranium at any time underscores the failure of Washington’s policy of paying Iran for better behavior. Only penalties and a credible military threat will deter the regime from further nuclear advances.” Andrea Stricker, FDD Research Fellow and Deputy Director of FDD’s Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program

Accelerated Production, Shrinking Breakout Time

Iran had been producing 60 percent HEU at a rate of 9 kilograms per month prior to June 2023, but then slowed production to 3 kilograms per month reportedly as part of an informal arrangement with the United States aimed at reducing tensions. Since late November, however, Iran has resumed production of 60 percent HEU at a rate of 9 kilograms per month, the IAEA said. About 40 kilograms of 60 percent HEU is adequate for one nuclear explosive device.

In addition to producing 60 percent HEU at a higher rate, Tehran is producing stockpiles of other levels of enriched uranium — including 5 and 20 percent — that could, if further enriched, reach 60 or 90 percent. As of November, Iran had enough enriched uranium to produce 90 percent weapons-grade uranium for up to 12 nuclear weapons in five months. Tehran would likely require additional months to fabricate weapons-grade uranium into nuclear devices.

Maximum Deference to Iran

As part of the informal arrangement with Iran, Washington authorized Tehran to access around $16 billion in frozen oil revenues. At the same time, Iran released five innocent American hostages in return for five Iranians who were awaiting trial or serving prison sentences for a range of crimes. The Islamic Republic has exploited the Biden administration’s aim to reach a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue, advancing its atomic program dramatically since Biden’s election.

Arms-Build-Up ‘Ghosts’ That Will Haunt Joe Biden This Holiday Season,” by Anthony Ruggiero and Andrea Stricker

Iran’s Nuclear Program Expands Despite U.S. Sanctions Relief,” by Andrea Stricker and Anthony Ruggiero

Iran May Exploit Israel’s War to Sprint to Nuclear Weapons,” by Andrea Stricker


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