According to diplomatic sources quoted in Reuters, Iran is preparing to install centrifuges for higher-grade uranium enrichment in underground bunkers, a development that is likely to add to Western concerns over Tehran’s atomic ambitions, which is buried deep inside a mountain to protect it against any attacks, preparatory work is under way at the Fordow facility near the city of Qom, and machines used to refine uranium could soon be moved to the site, the sources added.
Iran only disclosed the existence of Fordow two years ago after Western intelligence detected it and said it was evidence of covert nuclear activities. Refined uranium can be used to fuel nuclear power reactors and also, if enriched to much higher levels, provide material for atomic arms. Carrying out the process in Fordow could provide greater protection for Iran’s uranium-purifying centrifuges against military air strikes. The facility has yet to start operating.
Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons and says it is enriching uranium for electricity production and medical applications. However, its decision in early 2010 to raise the level of enrichment from the 3.5 percent purity needed for normal power plant fuel to 20 percent worried countries that saw it as a significant step towards the 90 percent needed for bombs. Iran’s continued enrichment has also drawn censure from the West, which has imposed increasingly tough sanctions on the regime.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague published an article in the Israeli daily Yisrael Hayom yesterday, similar to a piece published in Monday’s Guardian, stressing the need to increase pressure on Iran. Hague wrote in the Guardian, ‘Iran’s nuclear programme could lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, already the world’s most volatile region. It would be both naive and a derogation of duty to give them – once again – the benefit of the doubt.’ He added that ‘this latest revelation demonstrates the urgency of increasing pressure.’