According to a spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency, it has been confirmed that Iran is now enriching uranium at a new location in a mountain bunker, a setting which is difficult to strike in an attack.
“The IAEA can confirm that Iran has started the production of uranium enriched up to 20 percent… in the Fordo Fuel Enrichment Plant,” IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said in a statement.
“All nuclear material in the facility remains under the Agency’s containment and surveillance,” the Vienna-based UN-appointed watchdog added.
Iran already confessed to the existence of the facility back in 2009, and previous reports from the IAEA have stated that scientists in the Islamic Republic were getting the facility ready to begin work to enrich uranium.
Despite being asked to desist from uranium enrichment on four separate occasions by the UN Security Council, Iran has said repeatedly that it will not curtail its program to enrich uranium, insisting that their nuclear program is exclusively for non-military purposes.
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The UN is worried however, because the 20 percent enrichment the facility is capable of is much more than the needed 3.5 percent enrichment for nuclear power plants.
Iran claims that the higher enrichment value is needed for research they are conducting in their Tehran reactor to create isotopes for treatment against cancer.
Western countries do not accept this reasoning, believing rather that Iran is indeed researching how to both develop and deliver nuclear weapons. The west has placed sanction after sanction to persuade Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program, to no avail.
One western diplomat said that, “I don’t think this crosses a red line for other member states. But it certainly sets a worrying trend… You have to ask, when Iran says it is considering engaging (with the international community) and when it says its program is peaceful, why they are putting something in a bunker?”
The leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Iran cannot be dissuaded from its course, and it will especially not bend in the face of sanctions.
“The firm decision of the Islamic Republic is to resist the pressures” of Western governments, Khamenei said.
“While the Iranian people have travelled the road to success and see the signs of new victories to come, the (Western) oppressor is trying to frighten the Iranian people and officials by brandishing the threat of sanctions.”