Iran building underground nuclear facility near Natanz - NYT

An underground nuclear facility built by Iran would be able to withstand cyberattacks and bunker-penetrating bombs, the report claimed.

A handout satellite image shows a general view of the Natanz nuclear facility after a fire, in Natanz, Iran July 8, 2020 (photo credit: MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
A handout satellite image shows a general view of the Natanz nuclear facility after a fire, in Natanz, Iran July 8, 2020
(photo credit: MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

A new underground Iranian nuclear facility is under construction deep into mountains south of the Natanz nuclear complex according to Israeli and US intelligence sources, The New York Times reported on Friday.

The construction of a complex tunnel network at Natanz has been monitored by intelligence officials using satellite imagery.

The report, citing intel assessments, claimed the underground facility constructed is designed to withstand cyberattacks and bunker-penetrating bombs.

It adds that the construction of a new sheltered facility came in response to the alleged joint US-Israeli operation targeting the internal power system at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility. 

Defense Minister Benny Gantz referenced the new nuclear infrastructure at a conference last month, stating Iran is producing some 1,000 advanced IR6 centrifuges at the facility. "Iran is working to complete the production of the centrifuges in her nuclear facilities, including a new underground complex near Natanz," Gantz said.

 Israeli minister of Defense Benny Gantz gives a statement to the media at the IDF Central Command headquarters in Jerusalem, on March 30, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) Israeli minister of Defense Benny Gantz gives a statement to the media at the IDF Central Command headquarters in Jerusalem, on March 30, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Middle East tensions

NYT's report comes ahead of US President Joe Biden's planned trip to the Middle East in July, in which he will visit Israel and Saudi Arabia, Iran's regional adversaries.

Tehran's developing nuclear program has also been the subject of a critical resolution of the Islamic Republic passed by the IAEA Board of Governors last week. In response, Iran told the agency it would shut off 27 surveillance cameras at several key nuclear facilities, a move IAEA chief Rafael Grossi warned would be a "fatal blow" to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“In the name of God and the great nation of Iran, we will not back off a single step from our positions”

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi

During the most recent round of nuclear talks between Iran and major powers, the Iranian negotiation team reportedly attempted to use the new Iranian facility to pressure the United States into making concessions in the negotiations, as per the report.

The report also comes amid increased turmoil within Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards. Since April, the Mossad has allegedly kidnapped or taken out several Iranian officials associated with its IRGC Quds Force overseas terror Unit 840, as well as aerospace scientists involved in its satellite, nuclear and drone programs.

The strategy would seem to be an all-out blitz to both keep the Islamic Republic far from a nuclear weapon, despite its worrying progress in uranium enrichment.