US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl said on Tuesday that Iran could make enough fissile for one nuclear bomb in "about 12 days,", down from the estimated one year it would have taken while the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was in effect.
Kahl made the comment to a House of Representatives hearing when pressed by a Republican lawmaker why the Biden administration had sought to revive the 2015 deal.
"Because Iran's nuclear progress since we left the JCPOA has been remarkable. Back in 2018, when the previous administration decided to leave the JCPOA it would have taken Iran about 12 months to produce one bomb's worth of fissile material. Now it would take about 12 days," Kahl responded, according to Reuters.
"And so I think there is still the view that if you could resolve this issue diplomatically and put constraints back on their nuclear program, it is better than the other options. But right now, the JCPOA is on ice," Kahl added.
His comments follow an accusation from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors that Iran enriched uranium to 84 percent purity for the first time, placing it closer than ever to weapons-grade material.
Iran was last known to enrich up to 60 percent, while a 90-percent threshold is required for use in a weapon.
Despite this discovery, CIA Director William Burns said on the weekend that the US believes Iran hasn't yet decided to resume its nuclear weapons program.
“To the best of our knowledge, we don’t believe that the Supreme Leader in Iran has yet made a decision to resume the weaponization program that we judged that they suspended, or stopped, at the end of 2003,” Burns told CBS.
“But the other two legs of the stool, meaning enrichment programs, they’ve obviously advanced very far,” he continued. “They’ve advanced very far to the point that it would only be a matter of weeks before they could enrich to 90% if they chose to cross that line, and also in terms of their missile systems, their ability to deliver a nuclear weapon once they develop it, has also been advancing as well.”
Talks between Iran and world powers on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal remain stalled.
Former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in 2018, and Iran responded by scaling back its compliance with the agreement.
The Biden administration sought to return to the deal and held indirect talks with Iran on a return to compliance.
Those talks have been stalled since September, when Iran announced it had submitted its comments to the US response to the European Union’s draft for reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. A senior Biden administration official said the Iranian response "is not at all encouraging.”
A US official later said that the efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have “hit a wall” because of Iran's insistence on the closure of the UN nuclear watchdog's investigations.