Now that the IAEA’s report has been issued, it’s clear that the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant is seriously moving toward completion, although nothing to worry about just now. The IAEA took photographs of “cascade piping and other process equipment” and environmental samples to see if enrichment was taking place.
Centrifuge mounting pads, header and sub-header pipes, water piping, electrical cables and cabinets had been put in place but were not yet connected; the passivation tanks, chemical traps, cold traps and cool boxes were also in place but had not been connected. In addition, a utilities building containing electricity transformers and water chillers had also been erected.The rest sounds fairly irritated with Iran. Regular inspections will ensue, the next in about two weeks. Now there are additional questions that Iran needs to answer about how Fordow fits into its nuclear program.
That’s an issue because, if Iran is indeed building a civilian nuclear capability, it needs more than enrichment. It also needs a fuel fabrication facility, which doesn’t seem to be in prospect; that’s why the fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor has to be fabricated elsewhere. And then there are the turbines and electricity-generating equipment that Iran isn’t building a capability to manufacture. It probably would need to boost its cement and steel manufacturing capacity as well. It is doing none of these.
David Albright points out that
Iran stated that the site was being built in case the Natanz site were bombed. However, in the event of an attack on Natanz, the Fardow plant would likely then have been used to make weapon-grade uranium for nuclear weapons rather than LEU for civil purposes. LEU production would hardly be expected to be a priority during a time of war.And oh by the way, the IAEA observed drums of heavy water, about thirty tonnes, at the Arak site that the Iranians hadn’t mentioned.
The good news is that enrichment activity seems to be slowing down at Natanz. Whether this is because of the Geneva negotiations or technical difficulties is not clear. If it were because of the negotiations, it would seem useful for the Iranians to declare it as a show of good will. Heck, even if they were having technical difficulties, they could declare it for good will. But they chose not to, which is particularly foolish when the IAEA inspectors would inevitably see the slowdown.