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FACT CHECK: No proof Iran is currently producing nuclear weapons


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FACT CHECK: No proof Iran is currently producing nuclear weapons
While Iran has the capacity to produce nuclear weapons, it has stopped short of doing so, according to various reports

Claim: Iran has completed 80% of its development of five nuclear weapons.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this:  The YouTube video with the claim was posted on October 15 by a religious Filipino channel with 312,000 subscribers. As of writing, the video has 78,151 views, 2,100 likes, and 476 comments. 

In the video, the narrator claims: “80% na ang natatapos ng Iranians ayon sa balita sa pagbuo nila ng limang nuclear weapons na gagamitin daw nila sa bayan ng Israel.

(According to news reports, Iranians have completed 80% of the development of five nuclear weapons that they will use against Israel). 

Contrary evidence: According to various sources, while Iran has amassed enough nuclear material to build weapons, it has stopped short of doing so.

According to a January 2023 PBS report, Iran has enough nuclear material – including uranium enriched up to 60% – to build several nuclear weapons if it chooses to do so.

A report from the US Congressional Research Service (CRS) dated July 28, 2023 says: “Iran is not currently undertaking the key nuclear weapons-development activities that would be necessary to produce a testable nuclear device.”

Using information from US intelligence assessments, the same CRS report claims that though the country has the potential for nuclear weapons production, it has “halted its nuclear weapons program and has not mastered all of the necessary technologies for building such weapons.”

Still, US intelligence officials said there is still cause for concern as Iran continues its research activities and grows its uranium stockpile

Iran’s nuclear program: Under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran was required to implement restrictions on its nuclear program. After former US president Donald Trump ended US participation in the pact in 2018, Iran stopped implementing the agreement, the CRS report said.

According to a September 2023 report from Iran Watch, a website managed by nuclear watchdog Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, Iran has not yet produced “weapon-grade uranium” – that is, uranium-235 (U-235) enriched to 90%; all of the uranium processed by Iran has been at lower grades. 

Uranium enrichment: Uranium has three primary naturally-occurring isotopes: U-235, U-238, and U-234. U-235 is the isotope needed for nuclear weapons.

Production of nuclear weapons often begins with uranium enrichment – the process of increasing the percentage of U-235 in natural uranium. Uranium enrichment is usually done in gas centrifuges that separate U-235 from the slightly heavier U-238, which increases the concentration of U-235 present in the uranium. This enriched uranium is then further processed and added to a particular delivery mechanism (e.g., missiles, gravity bombs, etc.). 

Israel-Iran proxy conflict: The video references the ongoing “shadow war” between Israel and Iran. Israel considers Iran’s nuclear potential as a threat to its existence while Iran sees Israel as an imperialist power in the region.

Unverified claims: The claim in the video is unsubstantiated, since it does not provide the supposed news report that serves as the basis for the claim. Similar unsupported claims about nuclear weapons have been debunked before by Rappler:

– Miguel Batallones/Rappler.com

Miguel Batallones is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

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