Although it possesses the capability to produce weapons-grade enriched uranium, it's not actually known for certain how soon Iran could develop a working nuke.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned today: "If necessary, we can begin our industrial enrichment without any limitations."
The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed that sanctions crippling the Iranian economy would be lifted in return for regular nuclear checks.
This included a huge reduction of Iran's enrichment centrifuges, the concreting-over of a nuclear reactor core, and allowing International Atomic Energy Agency inspections at its various sites.
Prior to the 2015 agreement, it was believed it would take the Islamic Republic months to develop enough enriched uranium to produce a bomb. It would also need to develop the warhead technology capable of carrying it.
WHERE ON EARTH DOES URANIUM COME FROM?
Uranium, the key component required for a nuclear warhead, is a naturally-occurring metal mined from the earth.
The world's leading uranium miners are Kazakhstan, Canada and Australia, though Russia, China, and the US also have large mining operations.
It is the principle fuel for nuclear reactors, fuelling nuclear power plants to generate electricity.
Uranium can also be used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons, as well in conventional weapons to help penetrate thick armour.
WHAT DO WE DO WITH IT THEN?
It is the isotope uranium-235 – which makes up only 0.7 percent of natural uranium – that is needed for nuclear weapons.
Therefore, uranium taken from the earth needs to be enriched to at least 80 percent uranium-235.
In comparison, uranium for nuclear-powered energy only needs to be enriched to 3.5 percent.
WHAT DOES ENRICHMENT MEAN?
To do this, mined uranium is converted into a gas and fed into scores of connected, or "cascading", centrifuges – machines which spin the material inside them at incredibly high speeds.
This separates the lighter uranium from the heavier particles which can then be discarded.
This is repeated thousands of times, until the desired level of enrichment is achieved and the delicate "fuel" required for a nuke is possessed.
The 2015 deal meant Iran slashed its stock of centrifuges from 19,000 to 5,000, thereby severely hampering the time it would take Iran to build up a stash of 80 percent enriched uranium.
Bryan Gibson, professor of history at Hawaii Pacific University, told Quartz: "With the safeguards in place today, it will take Iran at least a year to get enough enriched uranium.
"That puts them more than 10 years behind North Korea, who detonated their first atomic bomb in 2006."
David Albright and Andrea Stricker, from the Institute for Science and International Security, recently claimed Iran could have enough fuel for a bomb in a decade.
HOW IS IT TURNED INTO A BOMB?
However, this enriched fuel would still then need to go into a working warhead.
These bombs work by using a conventional charge, or trigger, to pound two sections of uranium together.
When they clash, a neutron is powered into a uranium-235 atom, splitting it and releasing more neutrons which in turn split more atoms.
This creates a chemical chain reaction and the devastatingly large explosions seen during the West's nuclear tests of the 1950s onwards.
WHEN COULD IRAN GET THE BOMB?
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, has told the Wall Street Journal: "It would take many years for Iran to have a working nuclear arsenal."
But Jeffrey Lewis, a non-proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told the paper Iran was "quite far along" on its weaponisation technology.
He added: "What we don’t know is how well they (Iranian warhead efforts) would work on a first test."
WHAT IS THE IRAN NUKE DEAL?
- The Iran nuclear deal – officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – was reached to reduce the Muslim nation’s ability to produce key components in nuclear weapons.
- In return, crippling economic sanctions on the country would be lifted by seven world powers.
- The countries involved in the deal are Iran, Britain, China, France, Russia, Germany and The European Union.
- President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the deal this week, after describing it as “rotting and decaying”.
- The treaty, brokered in 2015, saw Iran agree to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium by 98 per cent.
- The International Atomic Energy Agency was granted regular access to all Iranian nuclear facilities to ensure Iran maintained the deal.
- If Tehran abides by the deal it receives relief from the US, European Union, and the United Nations Security Council on all nuclear-related economic sanctions.
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