Iran Announces Restart of Activities at Underground Nuclear Fuel Plant

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An underground nuclear fuel facility—that one expert said has no apparent “significance” for civilian use—is set to resume nuclear activities as the Iranians continue to undo restrictions on their nuclear program imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal. On Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that starting on Wednesday Iran would inject uranium gas into the centrifuges at the Fordow installation, according to the Fars News Agency, as the Islamic Republic continues to try and pressure Europe to make economic concessions to offset sanctions imposed by the United States

This is the fourth time this year that Iran has made a move that runs counter to the requirements under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The same day as Rouhani’s latest announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear again his country’s stance on Iran developing nuclear weapons.

“Given Iran’s efforts to expand its nuclear weapons program, expand its enrichment of uranium for making atomic bombs, I repeat here once again: We will never let Iran develop nuclear weapons,” said Netanyahu on Tuesday in comments released by his office. “This is not only for our security and our future; it’s for the future of the Middle East and the world.”

The Fars News report noted that Iranian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the International Organizations Kazzem Qaribabadi alerted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the plans to input the uranium gas into the Fordow facility. He said the IAEA had insisted on having inspectors present at the facility.

Nuclear expert Dr. Emily Landau took to Twitter to highlight the dangers of the Fordow move. “Iran’s breaches of the JCPOA are exposing the dangerous flaws in the deal, such as leaving Fordow open when it has no significance in the context of a civilian nuc program,” posted Landau in promoting an interview on Israel’s i24News.

Landau, senior research fellow and head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at The Institute for National Security Studies in Israel, separately noted on Twitter that the JCPOA erred in allowing Fordow to remain open. While the JCPOA required Fordow to be “reconfigured” for research-purposes only, she tweeted that that “reconfiguration never happened.”

On Tuesday, a Senior State Department Official, speaking on background in a conference call published by the US State Department, reiterated the belief that Europe is recognizing the scope of Iran’s misdeeds.

“The Europeans have been able to see that the Iranians are moving in the wrong direction in terms of what they’re doing with fissile material and uranium enrichment,” said the official, reiterating a view given by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a Monday interview with Lou Dobbs of FOX Business.

“And our view has remained that [Iran’s leadership] is a regime intent on using nuclear material to blackmail and try and extort money from Europe or from the West more broadly, and they’re concerned about it,” said the US official of the Europeans.

On Tuesday, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon called upon the world to intervene to halt Iran’s nuclear program. “Iran’s decision to increase uranium enrichment is an alarming violation of the nuclear deal. Despite sanctions, the regime is proving it has always wanted nuclear weapons. The int’l community must act to avoid this. #Israel will never allow the regime to obtain nuclear weapons,” tweeted Danon.

Netanyahu summarized Iran’s view and Israel’s response in his comments. Said Netanyahu, “Iran expands its aggression. It seeks to envelop Israel. It seeks to threaten Israel. It seeks to destroy Israel. We fight back.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, November 5, 2019)

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