Iran has doubled the number of uranium- enrichment centrifuges it has in an
underground bunker, the UN nuclear watchdog said on Thursday, showing Tehran’s
defiance toward Western pressure to stop its atomic work and the threat of an
The International Atomic Energy Agency also said in a report that
“extensive activities” – a reference to a suspected clean-up – at Iran’s Parchin
military complex would hamper its investigation of possible past nuclear weapons
development there, if inspectors are ever granted access.
The number of
enrichment centrifuges at Fordow, a site buried deep inside a mountain to better
protect it against any enemy strike, more than doubled to 2,140 from 1,064 in
May, according to the IAEA’s quarterly report. However, the new centrifuges are
not yet operating, it said.
The report showed that Iran had produced
nearly 190 kilograms of highergrade enriched uranium since 2010, up from 145
kilograms in May.
An Israeli government official responded to the IAEA
report by saying it “is further proof of what Prime Minister [Binyamin]
Netanyahu has been saying about Iran for years.”
Iran, which denies
developing nuclear weapons technology, says it needs the material to fuel a
medical research reactor, but the increase also takes it significantly closer to
making potential bomb material.
The report is likely to add to Western
alarm about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and may further fuel speculation that the
West might launch air strikes against Iranian nuclear sites.
used by some politicians has also fanned speculation that Israel might hit
Iran’s nuclear sites before the November US presidential vote. Washington has
said there is still time for diplomatic pressure to work, but it could be drawn
into any war between the two Middle East foes.
The IAEA May report said
Iran had installed a total of 1,064 centrifuges, of which 696 were operating, in
some six cascades. The diplomats said Iran has since added at least another 328
centrifuges, a jump of about 30 percent from the May figure, and perhaps
While the newly added centrifuges at Fordow are not yet operating,
the expansion reaffirmed Iranian defiance of international demands to suspend
enrichment, which can have both civilian and military uses depending on
“There is reason to be concerned by the increased tempo
of enrichment, the larger stockpile of enriched uranium and, most importantly,
the additional centrifuges installed in the deeply-buried facility at Fordow,”
said Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute of Strategic Studies think
It may reinforce the belief in Israel that diplomatic and economic
pressure is failing to make the Islamic Republic curb its uranium enrichment
Iran denies allegations it seeks a nuclear weapons capability
and says all its atomic work is for peaceful purposes. It has threatened
wide-ranging reprisals if attacked.
Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, on Thursday told heads of state from developing countries at a meeting
in Tehran that the country has no interest in nuclear weapons but will keep
pursuing peaceful nuclear energy.