Iran has started enriching its uranium to 20 percent purity in an underground facility, in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal.
Tehran boldly announced that it had resumed weapon-grade enrichment in the secret Fordow complex today, which contradicts the Obama-era agreement that enrichment must be kept below 3.67 percent.
It comes after the Trump administration imposed sanctions last month, and it complicates possible attempts by President-elect Joe Biden to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Nuclear weapons typically use 90 percent enriched uranium, but the 20 percent value is significant because the compound is categorized in the highly enriched uranium (HEU) category, which means it can be used in weapons.
Government spokesman Ali Rabeie announced today, "A few minutes ago the process to produce 20% enriched uranium at the Fordow Enrichment Complex began."
The Fordow nuclear enrichment facility is located about 80 miles south of Tehran and is surrounded by a double ring of steel, watchtowers, and Russian-made S-300 missile systems
The facility is surrounded by a ring of steel and watchtowers that cut through the rough terrain. In the upper area of the picture you can see a road that branches off. One route leads to a building with a white roof and another to the underground bunker
An enlarged map shows the entrance through the boundary fence at the top left and further tunnel entrances at the top right in the mountain range
Tunnels provide access to the heart of the facility, which is filled with over 1,000 centrifuges for core production
Trump held an Oval Office meeting last month where he was prevented from launching strikes against Iran after a UN report showed massive surge in nuclear supplies in violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which Trump gave up in 2018.
Defense sources told the New York Times that Trump had asked about options for a bombing – likely against Natanz, Iran's main nuclear facility.
Prior to today's announcement, Iran had disregarded restrictions imposed by the nuclear deal with Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
Last month, Tehran pledged to automatically return to its obligations under the 2015 agreement if Joe Biden lifts the sanctions imposed over the past two years.
Analysts claim that Trump's "max pressure" policies put Iran under so much pressure that Biden could easily get them to agree to terms.
But the recent provocation could destroy Democrats' hopes that the US will revert to the Obama-era deal, which they believe is the best way to stop Iran from building an atomic bomb.
Biden's allies believe Trump's aggression only made the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran more likely.
Trump's outgoing administration has put up a "wall of sanctions" against Iran for its appalling human rights record, support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah, and their nuclear activities.
The Fordow nuclear enrichment facility, located about 80 miles south of Tehran, has never been realigned as promised in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Iranian nuclear scientists can quickly achieve weapon-grade nuclear enrichment in the facility's deep underground corridors.
The plant is buried in a mountain range that was originally under the command of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. It is strongly fortified by a ring of steel fences with watchtowers every 80 feet.
Russian-made S-300 missile systems were installed four years ago and have become a focal point of activity as satellite imagery reveals increasing construction, according to the Institute of Science and International Security.
The US Air Force has B-2 stealth bombers armed with the 33,000 pound bunker buster. However, experts fear that the plant could be indestructible.
Trump has called the Obama-era JCPOA "the worst deal in history," and experts say Iran was insincere in making the deal and was never really interested in downgrading its Fordow nuclear facility (Photo: President Hassan Rouhani (left) and Trump (right)).
Tunnels are used to access the cave, which is filled with more than 1,000 centrifuges used in core production.
It was built in 2002 under the "Amad Plan" – Iran's nuclear weapons program – but its discovery by Western intelligence forced Tehran to convert it into a power plant in 2009.
And in 2016 the JCPOA decided to convert it into a "nuclear, physics and technology center" but it is now a key asset in what the Trump administration calls "nuclear extortion."
Trump has called the Obama-era JCPOA "the worst deal in history," and according to the Institute for Science and International Security, "there is little reason to believe that Iran will ever intend to remodel the Fordow tunnel complex in a meaningful way Has."
(tagsToTranslate) Dailymail (t) News (t) Iran (t) Latest news