Iran holds the technology required to create and detonate a nuclear warhead, and is now only waiting on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to give his okay producing the nation's first atom bomb, the Times reported on Monday.
The report cites western intelligence sources saying Iran has the capability to build the bomb within a year from when the order is given.
A US intelligence estimate from two years ago concluded that Iran suspended its nuclear research program in 2003 for fear of the American invasion on Iraq.
Now, the sources believe Tehran had ended its research because it had achieved its goal of finding a way to detonate a warhead that could be launched on its Shihab-3 ballistic missile.
According to the sources, as soon as Khamenei approves the project, it will take Iran six months to enrich enough uranium to produce the bomb, and another six months to assemble it on the warhead.
The report also said that the Iranian Defense Ministry has been running a covert research center for years, employing hundreds of scientists, researchers and metallurgists to develop military nuclear technology alongside its civilian nuclear program.
The report said the program, called Amad, which means supply in Farsi, is led by physics professor and senior member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Council, Mohsin Fakhri Zadeh.
'Iran has enriched enough uranium for a bomb'“The main thing (in 2003) was the lack of fissile material, so it was best to slow it down,” the sources said. “We think that the leader himself decided back then (to halt the program), after the good results,” one source said.
“If the supreme leader takes the decision (to build a bomb), we assess they have to enrich low-enriched uranium to highly-enriched uranium at the Natanz plant, which could take six months, depending on how many centrifuges are operating. We don’t know if the decision was made yet.”
The sources added that Iran could have created smaller, secret facilities, other than those at the secured facility at Natanz to develop materials for a first bomb. International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors only keep tabs on fissile material produced at monitored sites and not the number of centrifuges that Iran operates.
An Israeli official told the Times that, over that past 30 years, Iran has invested billions of into its two nuclear programs of uranium and plutonium.
The official added that Iran has so far enriched 1,010kg of uranium to 3.9%, which would be sufficient for 30kg of highly enriched uranium at 95 per cent. About 30kg is needed to build one bomb.
British intelligence services are familiar with the secret information about Iran’s experiments, sources at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.
Although British agencies did not have their own “independent evidence” that Iran had successfully tested the explosive component of a nuclear warhead, they said there was no reason to doubt the assessment.
British sources said that if Khamenei decided to push forward with the bomb, he will be faced with two choices – Taking the risky approach of kicking out the international inspectors and making a sprint to complete the bomb, or covertly developing the materials needed for an arsenal in secret desert facilities.