Western economic sanctions against Iran appear to be having little effect on the Islamic Republic’s drive to develop nuclear weapons, with a report surfacing on Wednesday that Iran has completed the installation of some 2,700 centrifuges in its Fordo nuclear power plant.
The International Atomic Energy Agency is due to release a new report on Iran’s nuclear activity on Friday, but according to a Western diplomat quoted by AFP, the report will confirm that Iran has completed the installation.
The centrifuges, when fully operational, can produce highly enriched uranium that can be used to make a nuclear weapon, although Iran maintains the production is for medical purposes.
Another anonymous diplomatic source cited by AFP said that nuclear fuel production at Fordo is likely to increase in the coming months, and nuclear expert Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said that “we are going to be seeing a very considerable, uninterrupted build-up of enrichment capacity… far exceeding any need that Iran could justify on the basis of its research reactor program.
Fordo, an underground, fortified nuclear facility carved into a mountain south of Tehran, was built in secret and only revealed after Western intelligence discovered its existence in 2009.
In late October, Reuters reported that according to Western diplomats, centrifuge installation had been completed at Fordo, but they were not operational, as supplementary systems were not yet in place.