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Iran’s focus: Putting its expanded nuclear program out of bunker busters’ reach

Iran's nuclear facility at Natanz.
FPI / June 7, 2023


The United States developed a bomb, the GBU-57, specifically to be able to destroy Iran’s underground nuclear facility at Fordow. Also known as the Massive Ordinance Penetrator (MOP), the 14,000kg precision-guided bomb can burrow through 60 meters of earth and rock before detonating.

Iran’s response was to dig even deeper.

Satellite photos appear to confirm that Iran is building a nuclear facility in the Zagros mountains, near the existing Natanz enrichment site that is so deep under the ground that it will be invulnerable even to America’s most powerful bunker-busting bomb.

The U.S.-based James Martin Center for Non-proliferation Studies analyzed the satellite photos and said that four entrances have been dug into the mountainside for the new facility, according to a report by Economist. Each entrance is six meters wide by eight meters high. The facility is 80 to 100 meters deep inside the mountain.

As it looks to build facilities out of the reach of bunker busters, Iran has reached the point where, based on the quarterly inspection report in February of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it could produce enough weapons grade uranium to produce a nuclear weapon in just 12 days.

According to the Institute for Science and International Security, a think-tank in Washington founded by former weapons inspector David Albright, if Iran used all its stock of highly enriched uranium, it could produce enough weapons grade uranium for four more nuclear weapons within a month.

In another two months, using its stock of low-enriched uranium (i.e., less than 5%-enriched), it could get enough material for two more weapons.

It would take Iran about six months to test and deploy a bomb for a crude delivery system, such as a plane or a ship. A missile-delivered warhead might be feasible in a year or two.

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