Iran poised to resume enrichment at deep Fordow facility

Jun 13, 2018 @ 19:27 Fordow, Hassan Rouhani, Iran nuclear, Natanz, uranium enrichment

After Iran warned it will leave the nuclear accord unless benefits are forthcoming, an atomic energy official in Tehran said that uranium enrichment would resume at Fordow – if that happens.
Iranian President Rouhani issued that warning to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday. On Wednesday, June 13, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi stated in Tehran that new work would begin on the nuclear program on the orders of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “Currently the Supreme Leader has ordered that the programs be carried out within the parameters of the nuclear deal,” Kamalvandi said. “And when he gives the order we will announce the programs for operating outside of the nuclear deal for reviving Fordow.”

Fordow, one of Iran’s two big enrichment sites, is equipped with 8,000 advanced centrifuges capable of turning out in a short time uranium enriched to the 20pc grade, required for making a nuclear weapon. At Natanz, Iran’s second large enrichment site, the advanced equipment just installed is believed to include high-speed IR6 centrifuges. Much of Natanz is deep underground and Fordow is buried inside a mountain to keep them safe from aerial bombardment.

The AEOI statement from Tehran had three purposes:

  1. To demonstrate the next day that Iran is unconcerned by the June 12 summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un for the nuclear disarmament of the Korean peninsula.
  2. It was a defiant response to the US president’s comment after the Singapore summit. He said that Iran was in a different place compared to three months ago. “I hope that at the appropriate time after sanctions, really harsh sanctions, kick in, they will negotiate a new deal. Right now, it’s too soon.” Tehran made sure in its response to stress its resolve to continue on its nuclear path regardless.
  3. The statement, combined with Rouhani’s remark to Macron, showed that the Iranian leadership is lined up solidly against Trump’s strategy and determined to resume its nuclear program.
  4. The underground enrichment facility at Fordow, not far from the religious town of Qom, is exceptionally difficult to destroy by air or missile. It consists of a network of long and twisting shafts so designed that if a section is hit, at least 10 chambers will continue to operate. An attempt was made in 2012 to disrupt the plant by sabotaging its high-tension power supply. After that, an independent power station was installed underground.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the US and Israel may be presumed to have prepared detailed operational plans for striking Fordow in consideration of these obstacles.

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