A high-level Defense Department official warned that it would take Iran “about 12 days” to produce materials needed for a nuclear bomb, adding that a deal to contain the country’s nuclear program “is on ice.”
Colin Kahl, the under secretary of defense for policy, made the remark on Tuesday during a House of Representatives hearing, Reuters reported. He said “Iran’s nuclear progress … has been remarkable” since the U.S. backed out of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“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,” he said. “Now it would take about 12 days.”
Cautioning that the JCPOA “is on ice,” Kahl maintained that “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.”
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Fissile materials, such as enriched uranium or plutonium, are key elements in sustaining a nuclear fission chain reaction. A November report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies indicated that while Iran had the fissile material stockpile for a bomb, further enrichment would be needed for a “modern nuclear weapon.”
Under the JCPOA, caps were put on both Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile and the degree to which the country could enrich uranium.
The JCPOA was essentially scrapped by President Donald Trump in 2018, who called it “one-sided” and did not fulfill a promise to replace it. President Joe Biden’s administration has attempted to revive the deal, but talks have stalled.
Biden told a woman the deal was “dead, but we’re not gonna announce it” on the sidelines of a Nov. 4 rally, according to a video that surfaced online in December.
A White House National Security Council spokesperson told Axios that given Iran’s deadly crackdowns on recent protests and support for Russia’s Ukraine war, “We don’t see a deal coming together anytime soon.”