According to the Associated Press:
The very existence of a draft in circulation provided perhaps the clearest indication the sides were nearing a written agreement as they raced to meet a March 31 deadline for a framework pact. The deadline for a full agreement is the end of June.The AP says Iran has 10,000 centrifuges, other sources say they have almost twice that number (19,000). Either way the 6,000 remaining centrifuges would not give Iran the capacity to produce enough uranium to run power plants - but, the rogue nation will have the capacity to enrich uranium to make nuclear bombs.
Officials said the tentative deal imposes new limits on the number of centrifuges Iran can operate to enrich uranium, a process that can lead to nuclear weapons-grade material. The sides are zeroing in on a cap of 6,000 centrifuges, officials said, down from the 6,500 they spoke of in recent weeks.
On Feb. 18th, former deputy director of the CIA, Mike Morell told Charlie Rose
The potential Iran nuclear agreement would limit Iran to the number of centrifuges needed for a weapon but too few for a nuclear power program.In a rare show of ignoring politics, the Pundit Fact column of the liberal-leaning Tampa Bay Times said Morell was telling the truth.
If you are going to have a nuclear weapons program, 5,000 is pretty much the number you need," Morell, now a CBS analyst, said on Charlie Rose. "If you have a power program, you need a lot more. By limiting them to a small number of centrifuges, we are limiting them to the number you need for a weapon."
That may seem counterintuitive, but the truth is enriching uranium to the 4-5% necessary for a nuclear power plant takes almost two-thirds of the effort it takes to enrich it to the 90% necessary for a nuclear weapon.
Morell told PunditFact he said 5,000 because that was lowest number he had heard was in play. The number of centrifuges in place today is a hairover 20,000, and a likely goal is to cut that to about 5,000. But Morell’s basic point struck us as just plain intriguing. We wanted to learn more about this idea that a nuclear power program would require many more centrifuges than you’d need for a bomb -- which by extension means that limiting centrifuge capacity is just one negotiating point out of many.
The consensus among the experts we reached is that Morell is on the money. Matthew Kroenig at Georgetown University told PunditFact the Morell is "is absolutely correct." Ditto for Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association and David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security.
Matthew Bunn at Harvard agreed with his colleagues.The paradox of any Iranian deal is the only way to prevent Iranian nuclear weapons is to keep the number of centrifuges below 5,000. The original 2006 UN resolution that said Iran had to eliminate all of its centrifuges. After the 5+1 negotiations began, the word was Iran would be allowed to keep a token number of centrifuges so they can save face. But now according to the AP reports, the Obama administrations is looking to bring Iran down to a level where the President can look like a hero because he cut Iranian centrifuges back by 70%. But what won’t be mentioned, is that 70% cutback to 6,000 centrifuges precludes peaceful uses of the nuclear energy and only allows for the creation of a nuclear weapon.
"People think surely you must need a bigger enrichment system to make 90 percent enriched material for bombs than to make 4-5 percent enriched material for power reactors," Bunn said. "But exactly the opposite is true."
Bunn said there are two reasons. First, you need tens of tons of material to fuel a power reactor for a year, but just tens of kilograms to make a bomb. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the threshold amount for a bomb is about 25 kilograms of the most highly enriched U-235.
And while yes, it’s harder to make 90 percent enriched uranium (bomb) than 4-5 percent enriched uranium (power), it’s not that much harder, Bunn said.
The toughest part in the process comes when you start with the raw uranium. By the time you’ve brought that to 4-5 percent, "you’ve already done more than 2/3 of the work of going all the way to 90 percent U-235 for weapons," Bunn said. "So the amount of work needed to make bomb material is only a modest amount more per kilogram, and the number of kilograms you need for bombs is 1,000 times less.