U.S.: Iran stopped nuclear weapons work

  • Story Highlights
  • U.S. releases intelligence estimate on Iran's nuclear work
  • Declassified summary of report released Monday
  • Estimate says Tehran "less determined to develop nuclear weapons"
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Iran halted work toward a nuclear weapon under international scrutiny in 2003 and is unlikely to be able to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb until 2010 to 2015, a U.S. intelligence report says.

A declassified summary of the latest National Intelligence Estimate found with "high confidence" that the Islamic republic halted an effort to develop nuclear weapons in the fall of 2003.

The estimate is less severe than a 2005 report that judged the Iranian leadership was "determined to develop nuclear weapons despite its international obligations and international pressure."

But it says Iran -- which declared its ability to produced enriched uranium for a civilian energy program in 2006 -- could reverse that decision and eventually produce a nuclear weapon if it wanted to.

Enriched uranium at low concentrations can be used to fuel nuclear power plants, but much higher concentrations are needed to yield a nuclear explosion.

"We judge with moderate confidence that the earliest possible date Iran would be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon is late 2009, but that this is very unlikely," the report states. A more likely time frame for that production is between 2010 and 2015, it concluded.

Iran has insisted that its nuclear program is strictly aimed at producing electricity, and it has refused the U.N. security council's demand that it halt its enrichment program.

U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley expressed hope after the announcement, but he said Iran remains a serious threat.

"The estimate offers grounds for hope that the problem can be solved diplomatically -- without the use of force -- as the administration has been trying to do," Hadley said in a statement.

"But the intelligence also tells us that the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious problem," Hadley's statement said.