Israel estimated on Thursday, February 2 that Iran could make four atomic bombs by further enriching uranium it has already stockpiled, and could produce its first within a year of deciding to build one, Reuters reported.
But in his rare public remarks, Major-General Aviv Kochavi, chief of military intelligence, held out the possibility stronger international sanctions might dissuade Tehran from pursuing a policy he had no doubt was aimed at developing nuclear weapons, despite Iranian denials.
Citing figures similar to those from the U.N. nuclear agency, Kochavi told Israel’s annual Herzliya Conference on strategic affairs: “Iran has accumulated more than 4 tonnes of uranium enriched to a level of 3.5 percent and nearly 100 kilos at an enrichment level of 20 percent.
“This amount of material is already enough for four atomic bombs.” Nuclear bombs require uranium enriched to 90 percent, but Western experts say much of the effort required to get there is already achieved once it reaches 20-percent purity, shortening the time needed for any nuclear weapons “break-out.” One former U.N. inspector said last month Iran could have enough 20-percent uranium for one bomb – about 250 kg of the material – in about a year from now.
Tehran says it will use 20 percent-enriched uranium to convert into fuel for a research reactor making isotopes to treat cancer patients. Western officials say they doubt that the country has the technical capability to do that.