If there was any doubt about the seriousness of the situation in Iran, that doubt should be dispelled by the news that the Iranians have begun to enrich uranium at their Fordow Nuclear Plant.
According to Reuters,
“All of Iran’s nuclear activities, including enrichment of uranium in both Natanz and Fordow nuclear sites are under supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),” Iran’s envoy to the agency Ali Asghar Soltanieh told al Alam.
Obviously this raises questions about Iran’s intentions with this nuclear facility, particularly because it is located underground. The possibility of an airstrike on their other nuclear facility at Natanz may have fueled the Iranian’s desire for a second, parallel plant not susceptible to aerial bombardment.
In the IAEA report on Fordow in 2009, analyzed by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS),
…Iran stated that no centrifuges had been installed in the facility, and, likewise, no nuclear material had been introduced. The IAEA verified Iran’s declaration that the facility was designed to hold 16 cascades of approximately 3000 P-1 centrifuges, though Iranian officials noted that the plant could be reconfigured to hold centrifuges of a more advanced design should such a decision be taken. Iran stated that the facility will be operational in 2011.
The ISIS report also mentions that Iran has a history of lying about the construction timeline of the plant at Natanz, and it appears they may have been lying about the construction timeline of the plant at Fordow,
The original structures built over top of the tunnel entrances were present in satellite imagery from 2004 and 2005, and the Associated Press reported that the construction of these buildings began in 2002. Since these structures were present at the same location perhaps as far back as 2002, Iran should provide documentation to the IAEA to support its declaration that construction of the enrichment plant did not begin until later
In fact, the only reason Iran acknowledged its existence was the discovery of the Fordow site in 2009 by Western intelligence. The number of years these plants may have been in operation without the knowledge of the West rightly causes concern among some experts about the actual amounts of fissile material the Iranians possess. Obviously this information is important in order to accurately determine how close Iran may be to developing a nuclear weapon.
As expected, Iran has also thumbed their noses at U.N Security Council resolutions. Reuters reports,
The Islamic Republic also said in June that it aimed to triple its capacity to enrich uranium to a higher grade — 20 percent fissile purity — which it says will be used to replenish the fuel stock for a medical research reactor.
Western officials and analysts say that by producing 20 percent enriched material Iran has taken a significant step closer to the 90 percent threshold suitable for atom bombs.
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said that moving centrifuges to Qom and increasing enrichment capacity was a “further deviation” from several Security Council resolutions, which demand that Iran suspend all enrichment-related activities to foster serious negotiations on a peaceful solution to the dispute.
Iran’s proclivity for lying does cause concern about their intention to use the resulting fissile material from Natanz and Fordow for nuclear weapon production. If the Iranians intentions were truly peaceful, they would have been forthcoming about their facilities and would have abided by the limits placed on their enrichment activities. It’s illogical to believe now is the time for a hands-off policy with regard to Iran’s nuclear program.