UN nuclear watchdog: Can’t rule out other Iran enrichment sites
An inspection of a second enrichment facility in Iran revealed no centrifuges, a new IAEA report said Monday. But the UN nuclear watchdog is concerned there may be other undeclared sites.
In its first report on Iran's nuclear program since the revelation of a second uranium enrichment facility near Qom in September, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Monday it could not rule out other hidden nuclear sites in Iran.Skip to next paragraph
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Iran's belated declaration in September after years of construction work "reduces the level of confidence in the absence of other nuclear facilities in Iran which [have] not been declared," the IAEA said in its restricted report for members, which was leaked to the media.
IAEA inspectors were given full access to the facility late last month and found no centrifuges. Iran has denied any other undeclared sites. But the UN nuclear watchdog remained concerned enough to ask Iran to explicitly state there are no more hidden nuclear sites.
"The [first] answer was apparently not satisfactory," says David Albright, the head of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, which frequently is the first to publish IAEA reports. "That's really what their request for a written answer is; Iran's credibility has been seriously damaged by the existence of this site, and their oral answers are not perceived as honest or complete."
In a Nov. 6 letter, the IAEA asked Iran "to confirm that it had not taken a decision to construct, or to authorize construction of, any other nuclear facility which had not been declared to the Agency." Iran has not responded yet to that request.
'Advanced' construction at Fordo
IAEA inspectors found no centrifuges in the facility near Qom, known as Fordo or Fordow. But they found the plant, which Iran says is due to be ready in 2011, to be "at an advanced state of construction," with an array of piping and electrical cables and mounting gear installed.
Iran has repeatedly asserted that it was only required to disclose the Fordo site six months before the introduction of nuclear material, but that interpretation of its obligations is not shared by the IAEA.
The IAEA says that revised rules Iran agreed to in 2003 require it to declare all projects to the agency at the moment they are authorized.
While Iran claimed it only began work at the Fordo facility in the second half of 2007, IAEA monitors informed Tehran that commercial satellite imagery showed work began in 2002, stopped in 2004 and then resumed in 2006.
Drop in centrifuge use
Even as Iran weighs a deal with leading powers to exchange the bulk of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) for much-needed fuel for a medical reactor, the IAEA reported that Iran has not expanded its uranium enrichment program since its last quarterly report in August.