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UN Watchdog confirms new construction at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility

Gas Centrifuges (Nuclear Regulatory Commission/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency said that Iran has begun construction of an underground centrifuge assembly plant near its nuclear facility at Natanz.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi said in an October 28 interview in Berlin that the facility seems to be a replacement for one that exploded in July in what Tehran called a sabotage attack.

“They have started, but it is not completed,” Grossi said. “It’s a long process.”

The agency also on October 28 released satellite images that it said showed evidence of the construction work.

Grossi also said Iran is stockpiling greater amounts of low-enriched uranium but does not seem to have enough to produce a nuclear weapon.

The head of Iran’s nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, said on state television last month that the destroyed plant would be replaced by one “in the heart of the mountains around Natanz.”

Grossi said that Iran had informed IAEA inspectors of the construction and that they continue to have access to Iran’s nuclear sites despite the collapse of a 2015 deal between Iran and world powers aimed at restricting Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iran insists it is not attempting to develop nuclear weapons.

The United States withdrew from the 2015 agreement in 2018, saying that it did not do enough to address Iran’s missile program or Tehran’s support for groups in the Middle East that have been labeled terrorist organizations.