clearn.png
Friday April 16th, 2021 5:11AM

Iran builds at underground nuclear facility amid US tensions

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran has begun construction on a site at its underground nuclear facility at Fordo amid tensions with the U.S. over its atomic program, according to satellite photos obtained by The Associated Press on Friday.

Iran has not publicly acknowledged any new construction at Fordo, whose discovery by the West in 2009 came in an earlier round of brinkmanship before world powers struck the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

While the purpose of the building remains unclear, any work at Fordo likely will trigger new concern in the waning days of the Trump administration before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Already, Iran is building at its Natanz nuclear facility after a mysterious explosion in July there that Tehran described as a sabotage attack.

“Any changes at this site will be carefully watched as a sign of where Iran’s nuclear program is headed," said Jeffrey Lewis, an expert at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies who studies Iran.

Asked for comment, Iran's mission to the United Nations told the AP that “none of Iran’s nuclear activities are secret,” given the ongoing inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"We have always maintained that our current activities, which are in line with (the nuclear deal), can and will be immediately reversed once the other parties, including the U.S., come into full compliance with what was agreed upon, in particular on removing sanctions,” mission spokesman Alireza Miryousefi said. He did not elaborate.

The Vienna-based IAEA, whose inspectors are in Iran as part of the nuclear deal, declined to comment. The agency as of yet has not publicly disclosed if Iran informed it of any construction at Fordo.

Construction on the Fordo site began in late September. Satellite images obtained from Maxar Technologies by the AP show the construction taking place at a northwest corner of the site, near the holy Shiite city of Qom, some 90 kilometers (55 miles) southwest of Tehran.

A Dec. 11 satellite photo shows what appears to be a dug foundation for a building with dozens of pillars. Such pillars can be used in construction to support buildings in earthquake zones.

The construction site sits northwest of Fordo's underground facility, built deep inside a mountain to protect it from potential airstrikes. The site is near other above-ground support and research-and-development buildings at Fordo.

Among those buildings is Iran's National Vacuum Technology Center. Vacuum technology is a crucial component of Iran's uranium-gas centrifuges, which enrich uranium.

A Twitter account called Observer IL earlier this week published an image of Fordo showing the construction, citing it as coming from South Korea's Korea Aerospace Research Institute.

The AP later reached the Twitter user, who identified himself as a retired Israeli Defense Forces soldier with a civil engineering background. He asked that his name not be published over previous threats he received online. The Korea Aerospace Research Institute acknowledged taking the satellite photo.

President Donald Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from Iran's nuclear deal, in which Tehran had agreed to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Trump cited Iran's ballistic missile program, its regional policies and other issues in withdrawing from the accord, though the deal focused entirely on Tehran's atomic program.

When the U.S. ramped up sanctions, Iran gradually and publicly abandoned the deal's limits as a series of escalating incidents pushed the two countries to the brink of war at the beginning of the year. Tensions still remain high.

Under the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran agreed to stop enriching uranium at Fordo and instead make it “a nuclear, physics and technology center.”

“This location was a major sticking point in negotiations leading to the Iran nuclear deal,” Lewis said. “The U.S. insisted Iran close it while Iran’s supreme leader said keeping it was a red line.”

Since the deal's collapse, Iran has resumed enrichment there.

Shielded by the mountains, the facility also is ringed by anti-aircraft guns and other fortifications. It is about the size of a football field, large enough to house 3,000 centrifuges, but small and hardened enough to lead U.S. officials to suspect it had a military purpose when they exposed the site publicly in 2009.

As of now, Iran is enriching uranium up to 4.5%, in violation of the accord’s limit of 3.67%. Iran's parliament has passed a bill that requires Tehran to enrich up to 20%, a short technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%. The bill also would throw out IAEA inspectors.

Experts say Iran now has enough low-enriched uranium stockpiled for at least two nuclear weapons, if it chose to pursue them. Iran long has maintained its nuclear program is peaceful.

While Iranian President Hassan Rouhani opposed the bill, the country's Guardian Council later tweaked and approved it. The bill seeks to pressure European nations to provide relief from crippling U.S. sanctions.

Meanwhile, an Iranian scientist who created its military nuclear program two decades ago recently was killed in a shooting outside of Tehran. Iran has blamed Israel, which has long been suspected of killing Iranian nuclear scientists over the last decade, for the attack. Israel has not commented on the attack.

___

Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Iran builds at underground nuclear facility amid US tensions
Iran has begun construction at its underground nuclear facility at Fordo amid tensions with the U.S. over its atomic program
1:39AM ( 15 minutes ago )
Biden picks Regan for EPA nominee, Haaland for interior head
President-elect Joe Biden says he has chosen North Carolina regulator Michael S
1:32AM ( 22 minutes ago )
Snags on COVID-19 relief may force weekend sessions
It’s a hurry up and wait moment on Capitol Hill as congressional negotiators on a must-pass, almost $1 trillion COVID-19 economic relief package struggle through a handful of remaining snags
1:21AM ( 33 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
US experts debate: Who should be next in line for vaccine?
Experts are debating who should be next in line for COVID-19 vaccines when more doses become available
12:05AM ( 1 hour ago )
Asia Today: Beds in short supply as SKorea sees another jump
South Korea has reported 1,062 new cases of the coronavirus, its third straight day of over 1,000, as authorities in Seoul warn that hospital beds are in short supply
11:41PM ( 2 hours ago )
Report: Slain officer tripped during California bar massacre
A report finds the sheriff’s sergeant accidentally shot by a fellow police officer as they responded to a mass shooting at a California bar had tripped and fallen during the chaos
9:56PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP National News
Nigerian official: More than 300 abducted schoolboys freed
A government official says more than 300 schoolboys abducted last week by gunmen in northwest Nigeria have been released
9:52PM ( 4 hours ago )
Hack against US is 'grave' threat, cybersecurity agency says
The government’s cybersecurity agency is expressing increased alarm about a hack of computer systems in the U.S. and around the globe that officials suspect was carried out by Russia
9:07PM ( 4 hours ago )
FDA plans to OK 2nd COVID-19 vaccine after panel endorsement
The head of the Food and Drug Administration says his agency is moving quickly to authorize a second COVID-19 vaccine
9:02PM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Pelosi, McConnell to get vaccine, urge members to do same
The top leaders of the U.S. House and Senate will be receiving the coronavirus vaccine in the next few days, and Congress’ attending physician has informed members that they are all eligible for the shots under “government continuity” guidelines
10:46PM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: Coronavirus vaccine provided to US Supreme Court
The justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are being provided with doses of the coronavirus vaccine
9:00PM ( 4 hours ago )
The Latest: Brazil high court says vaccine can be mandatory
Brazil’s Supreme Court says coronavirus vaccination can be made mandatory, delivering a blow to the nation’s anti-vaccine movement
8:03PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Family behind OxyContin attests to its role in opioid crisis
Two members of the Sackler family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma have acknowledged the drug had a role in the opioid epidemic
4:52PM ( 9 hours ago )
EU, UK leaders concede big gaps remain in post-Brexit talks
The U.K. and the European Union have provided sober updates on the state of post-Brexit trade discussions, with only two weeks to go before a potentially chaotic split
4:10PM ( 9 hours ago )
EU top official sees 'progress' in post-Brexit talks
The European Union’s top official says “substantial progress on many issues” has been made in post-Brexit talks, yet big differences remain to be bridged
2:47PM ( 11 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Asian stocks sink after Wall St hits record on stimulus hope
Asian stock markets are lower after Wall Street hit a new high on optimism about economic stimulus and coronavirus vaccine development despite a spike in U.S. unemployment claims
10:33PM ( 3 hours ago )
Judge says strip club ruling also protects restaurants
A California judge said Thursday that all restaurants in San Diego County can resume on-site dining with safety protocols, marking a setback to the governor’s stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus
9:17PM ( 4 hours ago )
'Unbelievable' snowfall blankets parts of the Northeast
The northeastern United States is digging out after a whopper of a storm buried some areas under more than 3 feet of snow
6:31PM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Business
The Latest: NBA star Antetokounmpo appears in safety ad
NBA basketball star Giannis Antetokounmpo has appeared in a commercial in his native Greece, released ahead of Christmas to urge people to observe public safety measures during the pandemic
5:03PM ( 8 hours ago )
The Latest: UN appeals to rich nations to share vaccines
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is appealing to rich nations to support the purchase of coronavirus vaccines for poor countries
2:49PM ( 11 hours ago )
Wall Street braces for trading surge as Tesla enters S&P 500
Wall Street is gearing up for an avalanche of trading and volatility ahead of Tesla’s entry into the S&P 500 index
12:29PM ( 13 hours ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
Biden picks Regan for EPA nominee, Haaland for interior head
President-elect Joe Biden says he has chosen North Carolina regulator Michael S
1:32AM ( 29 minutes ago )
Snags on COVID-19 relief may force weekend sessions
It’s a hurry up and wait moment on Capitol Hill as congressional negotiators on a must-pass, almost $1 trillion COVID-19 economic relief package struggle through a handful of remaining snags
1:21AM ( 40 minutes ago )
Raiders lose QB Carr, fall in overtime to Chargers, Herbert
Justin Herbert scored on 1-yard plunge to give the Los Angeles Chargers a 30-27 overtime victory over the Las Vegas Raiders
1:11AM ( 50 minutes ago )
With Trump silent, reprisals for hacks may fall to Biden
All fingers are pointing to Russia as the source of a punishing hack of U.S. government agencies
12:54AM ( 1 hour ago )
Trump stays on sidelines as vaccine injections begin
President Donald Trump’s administration helped bring about vaccinations against the coronavirus earlier than even some of his own officials had hoped for
12:35AM ( 1 hour ago )