US Plays Up Iran ‘Breakout Capability’ at Nuclear Talks

Officials Also Paint Iran's Conventional Arms as an Obstacle to Deal

A new round of nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 means a new round of “problems” for the US to present with Iran’s civilian nuclear program, and indeed with Iran in general.

Secretary of State John Kerry laid out the “breakout capability” of Iran’s civilian enrichment program, the assumption that Iran could theoretically whip together a nuclear weapon in short order if it chose to do so.

Kerry presented it as a “public domain” fact that Iran could create enough fissile material for a weapon in two months, though officials have gone anywhere from 3-4 months and a matter of days in different speeches throughout the years.

The figures are based on the idea that Iran could instantaneously and perfectly transition centrifuges from 3.5 percent to weapons grade (95% or higher), even though Iran has never even attempted to go beyond 20%.

US officials are also presenting Iran’s conventional missiles as a “hurdle” to be overcome as well, though it is unclear if the rest of the P5+1 will even consider that, since conventional weapons are totally distinct from Iran’s obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of