An American think tank questioned whether Iran is secretly constructing a third nuclear enrichment facility and posited that its Fordow site is likely used for producing weapons-grade uranium in two reports released on Monday.
Iran’s Fordow nuclear facility, a clandestine underground site near the city of Qom, is “unnecessary for its civilian nuclear program” and unneeded unless Iran wants nuclear weapons, according to the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS).
“Iran’s decision to build a relatively small, deeply buried enrichment facility without first informing the IAEA suggests that Fordow was intended to be used to make weapon-grade uranium (enriched to over 90 percent) for nuclear weapons, or to provide Iran with that option,” the Fordow report said, citing International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) evidence.
Since the plant was discovered in 2009, Iran has changed its stated purpose multiple times in official IAEA documents and correspondence, adding “credence to the assessment that after realizing it was caught in 2009 building the facility in secret, Iran rushed to proclaim a civilian purpose for it with the IAEA.”
The fact that Iran has changed the stated purpose of the facility so many times over such a short period “raises significant questions regarding its original purpose,” as does an 2009 IAEA report that Iran had significantly remodeled sections of the site following the revelation of its existence.
The report questions the need for the Fordow site, noting that the Natanz facility already produces enough 3.5% low-enriched uranium for Iran’s power plants, and stating that Iran already has enough 19.75% uranium to run the Tehran Research Reactor for five to 20 years.
The second ISIS report explores the possibility that Iran is secretly building another gas centrifuge site that could be used to make 19.75% enriched uranium or higher. In official correspondences with the IAEA from 2010 and 2011, Iran stated that another uranium enrichment site was slated to be constructed but had been delayed for two years, leading analysts to question the status of the project today.
“Under Iran’s interpretation of its safeguards obligations, Iran can essentially finish construction of a gas centrifuge plant before notifying the IAEA of its existence. Iran is trying to assert that it has a right to build a centrifuge plant in secret,” the report states.
Since 2007, Iran has taken the position that it does not have to notify the IAEA of the construction of new facilities despite the IAEA’s contention that it is obligated to do so under a safeguards agreement. Iran’s main nuclear facilities, including the two already extant centrifuge sites, Fordow and Nantaz, were built secretly.
The recent round of talks between Western powers and Iranian officials over Iran’s nuclear program, held in May in Baghdad, ended inconclusively. The Western countries want Iran to halt production of 19.75% uranium in exchange for a lifting of sanctions, nuclear safety cooperation and other benefits. The next round of negotiations are scheduled for June 18-19 in Moscow.
|Like us on Facebook||Get our newsletter||Follow us on Twitter|