While Iran may not produce a nuclear weapon in 2012, once the decision is made, it won't take long, a report issued by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) Wednesday said.
Entitled "Reality Check: Shorter and Shorter Timeframe if Iran Decides to Make Nuclear Weapons," the report says Iran has developed the capability to "rapidly build nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program," which ISIS calls "nuclear hedging."
Citing the Nov. 2011 International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran's nuclear aspirations, the report says "Iran has already made a series of important decisions that would give it the ability to quickly make nuclear weapons."
"It has put together a gas centrifuge program to provide the necessary fuel for a weapon, worked on developing a nuclear weaponization capability, and developed a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, all under ostensibly civilian purposes or great secrecy," the report stated.
"The lengths Iran has gone to both conceal major elements of its enrichment program, such as the originally undeclared Natanz, Kalaye Electric, and Fordow enrichment facilities, and establish controversial capabilities, such as its 19.75 percent low enriched uranium (LEU) production program, have raised concerns that its hedging strategy may be aimed at eventual highly enriched uranium production," it read.
The report said Iran's "stockpiling" of enriched uranium "may be another component of its hedging strategy, which is aimed at keeping adequate fuel on standby for a quicker breakout to nuclear weapons."
According to ISIS, there's still time for a "peaceful resolution" to the Iranian nuclear program. But it's unwise, it says, to rely on a lack of evidence that it's taken the "last step" to construct a nuclear weapon.
"Eschewing strengthened non-military options in the form of pressure and sanctions ignores this shortening timeline and makes it more likely that Iran will progress in its hedging strategy, augmenting the chance for armed conflict," the report concludes.
Founded in 1993, ISIS, a not-for-profit institution, works to inform the public on policy issues affecting international security and help bring about greater transparency of nuclear activities worldwide.