Top U.S. Intelligence Official: Iran Could Not Build Nuclear Bomb Without Being Detected

Appearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper assured the panel that Iran would be unable to build a nuclear weapon without being detected.

Clapper was joined by newly-confirmed CIA Director John Brennan and other members of the U.S. intelligence community to present the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community [PDF]. The thirty-page document lays out the unclassified judgment of the nation’s spies and analysts about potential threats around the globe. Substantial space is given to the threat of cyber-actors, Al Qaeda and its affiliates, and transnational organized crime.

Within the section on the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the Assessment reaffirms that Iran has yet to decide to build a nuclear weapon. Even if it did, according to Clapper, Iran would not be able to do so in secret:

Of particular note, Iran has made progress during the past year that better positions it to produce weapons-grade uranium (WGU) using its declared facilities and uranium stockpiles, should it choose to do so. Despite this progress, we assess Iran could not divert safeguarded material and produce a weapon-worth of WGU before this activity is discovered.

Iran recently began installing advanced centrifuges in its Natanz uranium enrichment site, but has continued to convert its uranium stockpile into forms that are difficult to enrich further. Approximately 250 kilograms of 90 percent enriched uranium is required to create one nuclear weapon; Iran has yet to enrich uranium to that degree and has been careful to not allow its enriched stockpile come close to 250 kg.


The report, as presented by Clapper, went on to characterize Iran’s decision-making process as “guided by a cost-benefit approach,” running counter to neoconservative claims that Iran is an irrational actor.