HOW SOON CAN IRAN HAVE A NUCLEAR BOMB?….David Albright estimates that if Iran is serious about building a nuclear weapon, it could ? maybe, possibly ? have one in three years:

If Iran had started to build a clandestine plant with 1,500-1,800 centrifuges in early 2006, it could assemble enough additional usable machines in about 15-18 months, or by about mid-2007….It would also need to install control and emergency equipment, feed and withdrawal systems, and other peripheral equipment. It would then need to integrate all of these systems, test them, and commission the plant….Final completion of a clandestine plant would be highly unlikely before the end of 2007.

Given another year to make enough HEU for a nuclear weapon, and a few more months to convert the uranium into weapon components, Iran could have its first nuclear weapon in 2009. By this time, Iran could have had sufficient time to prepare the other components of a nuclear weapon, although the weapon may not be small enough to be deliverable by a ballistic missile.

This result reflects a worst-case assessment for arms control. Iran can be expected to take longer, as it is likely to encounter technical difficulties that would delay bringing a centrifuge plant into operation.

His conclusion is that we still have time to stop Iran from going nuclear, but not that much time:

Looking at a timeline of at least three years before Iran could have a nuclear weapons capability means that there is still time to pursue aggressive diplomatic options and time for measures such as sanctions to have an effect, if they become necessary.

….Although these estimates include significant uncertainties, they reinforce the view that Iran must foreswear any deployed enrichment capability and accept adequate inspections. Otherwise, we risk a seismic shift in the balance of power in the region.

Just thought you’d like to know.

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