CIA Director Leon Panetta today said he believes Iran probably has enough low enriched uranium that it could, if weaponized, produce two primitive atomic bombs. Panetta estimated that the process would take at least two years.
Iran has been producing uranium enriched to 3.5% for use in energy generation, and has also produced a trivial amount of 20% enriched uranium in an attempt to produce its own fuel for a medical research reactor.
To produce an atomic bomb, Iran would need to enrich that uranium to at least 90 percent. The IAEA monitors Iran’s enrichment program and has repeatedly confirmed the non-diversion of material to any non-civilian use, and would instantly know if Iran reconfigured its centrifuges to a higher percentage, so such a process could not be done in secret.
Iran’s comparatively large stockpile is, ironically enough, a function of the Obama Administration’s rejection of the third party enrichment deal Iran negotiated with Turkey and Brazil. If the administration had accepted the deal, Iran could have transferred roughly half of its inventory to Turkey for safekeeping, leaving them only enough material for a hypothetical test explosion, with none left over to even attempt to build another weapon afterward.