New York, Nov 20 : Iran has now produced roughly enough nuclear material, with added purification, to make a single atom bomb, The New York Times quotes nuclear experts, as saying.
The figures detailing Iran's progress were contained in a routine update on Wednesday from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been conducting inspections of the country's main nuclear plant at Natanz.
The report concluded that as of early this month, Iran had made 630 kilograms, or about 1,390 pounds, of low-enriched uranium.
Several experts said that was enough for a bomb, but they cautioned that the milestone was mostly symbolic, because Iran would have to take additional steps.
Not only would it have to breach its international agreements and kick out the inspectors, but it would also have to further purify the fuel and put it into a warhead design - a technical advance that Western experts are unsure Iran has yet achieved, The NYT reported.
"They clearly have enough material for a bomb. They know how to do the enrichment. Whether they know how to design a bomb, well, that's another matter," said Richard L. Garwin, a top nuclear physicist who helped invent the hydrogen bomb and has advised Washington for decades.
Iran insists that it wants only to fuel reactors for nuclear power. But many Western nations, led by the United States, suspect that its real goal is to gain the ability to make nuclear weapons.
While some Iranian officials have threatened to bar inspectors in the past, the country has made no such moves, and many experts inside the Bush Administration and the I.A.E.A. believe it will avoid the risk of attempting "nuclear breakout" until it possessed a larger uranium supply.
American intelligence agencies have said Iran could make a bomb between 2009 and 2015.
Siegfried S. Hecker of Stanford University and a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory said the growing size of the Iranian stockpile "underscored that they are marching down the path to developing the nuclear weapons option."
In its report, the IAEA, which is based in Vienna, said Iran was working hard to roughly double its number of operating centrifuges.
A senior European diplomat close to the agency said Iran might have 6,000 centrifuges enriching uranium by the end of the year. The report also said Iran had said it intended to start installing another group of 3,000 centrifuges early next year.