Status of Iranian enrichment plant unclear
09 January 2012
Reports in the Iranian media suggest that the underground Fordow uranium enrichment plant is likely to enter service soon - if it hasn't already done so. According to the Tehran Times and Mehr news agency, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) director Fereydoun Abbasi said that the new plant would start operating in the near future in an address given at a university in Bandar Abbas. Meanwhile, Iranian daily newspaper Kayhan reported that uranium hexafluoride gas has already been fed into the new facility. Iran formally told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it was building the Fordow plant in 2009, and subsequently announced that it would be installing advanced centrifuges at the site which would enable it to triple its output of 19.75%-enriched uranium. Iran currently produces uranium enriched to that level at its controversial Natanz plant, but in June 2011 notified the IAEA that it would be transferring its 20% enrichment process to Fordow, near Qom. Iran maintains that the Fordow plant's purpose is to provide fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor.