Iranian Nuclear Official Says IRGC Uranium Enrichment Facility Will Be Revived if Tehran Exits Nuclear Deal
A top official of Iran’s nuclear program has said that activity at the Tehran regime’s uranium enrichment facility at Fordow will be resumed if Iran withdraws from the JCPOA – the technical name for the July 2015 nuclear deal reached with the US and five other powers.
In remarks on Saturday quoted by the regime-backed Mehr news agency, Behrouz Kalmavandi – deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) – said that were Iran to exit the deal, “we have plans for this site.”
The Fordow facility’s existence, constructed as part of Project Amad, Iran’s clandestine effort to assemble nuclear weapons, was first revealed by satellite imagery in 2o09. The facility – designed to accommodate more than 3,000 centrifuges – is located at an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) base near the Shia Muslim holy city of Qom. In testimony on June 6 to the House Subcommittee on National Security, David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and International Security, said that the facility was “likely designed to make weapon-grade uranium from low enriched uranium.”
Under the terms of the JCPOA, Fordow was to be converted into a “nuclear, physics and technology center,” with a prevention on “any uranium enrichment and uranium enrichment R&D and from keeping any nuclear material at Fordow for 15 years.”
According to a February report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors Fordow, “Iran has not conducted any uranium enrichment or related research and development (R&D) activities, and there has not been any nuclear material at the plant.” However, on April 29 – more than a week before President Donald Trump’s announcement that the US was withdrawing from the nuclear deal – satellite images gathered by Israel’s ImageSat International spotted what appeared to be renewed activity at Fordow.
The images showed that two buildings that had been under construction since July 2016 – believed to be workshops for R&D and assembly – were now complete. In addition, the entrance gate to the tunnels leading to the facility had been opened, with thirty private cars and four buses in the parking lot close to the entrance – in marked contrast to recent months, when ISI photos showed the facility’s gate locked and no vehicles in the lot.
In a May 23 research paper issued by Israel’s BESA Center, IDF Lt. Col. (ret.) Dr. Raphael Ofek observed that the new activity at Fordow “can be explained as organizing steps for converting the facility to a civil research center for nuclear energy and physics, conducted in partnership with Russia, which would comply with the 2015 nuclear agreement.”
“Careful monitoring of the Fordow site is highly important, particularly after Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal, but we must not be tempted towards hasty conclusions,” Ofek added.
During the last week, Iran has been openly boasting of its ability to resume uranium enrichment with new centrifuges that are far more productive than the IR-1 series originally installed in its nuclear facilities. In a broadcast from the Natanz nuclear facility on Thursday, Iranian TV showcased the new IR-2M, IR-4 and IR-6 centrifuges, which experts say can produce three to five times more enriched uranium in a year than the IR-1s.