According to a recent article by the New York Times, Western intelligence agencies and international inspectors now “suspect that Tehran is preparing to build more [enrichment] sites”. This revelation, according to the newspaper, comes at a “crucial moment in the White House’s attempts to impose tough new sanctions against Iran.”
However, these “suspicions” come months after Iran publicly disclosed such intentions. Tehran declared plans to build 10 additional sites on 29 November 2009, a couple of days after an IAEA Board of Governors resolution called on Tehran to confirm that it had “not taken a decision to construct, or authorize construction of, any other nuclear facility” and suspend enrichment in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions.
At the time, the Iran’s decision to construct more enrichment sites was widely dismissed in the West as an act of defiance and unlikely more than mere bravado. On 30 November 2009 the New York Times wrote that “it [was] doubtful Iran could execute that plan for years, maybe decades”. The same article referred to a high-ranking Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) official claiming that taking the declaration seriously was “akin to believing in the tooth fairy” and that this effort would likely produce “‘one small plant somewhere that they’re not going to tell us about’ and be military in nature.”
In fact, a week before Iran’s original announcement, Ivan Oelrich and I argued in an article at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that Fordow is likely one of many similar sites. A technical analysis of the facility’s planned capacity showed that, alone, it was not well-suited for either a commercial or a military function. The facility’s low capacity also undermined other strategic roles suggested by official and quasi-official Iranian sources – that Fordow is a contingency plant in case Natanz were attacked or that Fordow was even meant to deter an attack on Natanz. Continue Reading →