Iran has started construction at a nuclear facility in Natanz, according to satellite photos released Wednesday and reported by the Associated Press (AP).
New photos from San Francisco’s Planet Labs, Inc. reveal the nuclear site cleared away with construction equipment present, the AP reports. Earlier images from Maxar Technologies appear to show multiple vehicles including backhoes, at the site, per the AP. The same site saw a major explosion this summer that experts have speculated might have been an act of sabotage, per previous reporting.
Iranian spokesman Alireza Miryousefi told the AP that “nothing in Iran regarding its peaceful nuclear program is being done in secret,” saying that the Islamic Republic was still fully complying with the Iran nuclear deal. Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Grossi told the AP on Tuesday that his organization’s inspectors still have access to Iranian nuclear sites and were aware of the construction in Natanz.
Satellite photos show Iran has begun construction at its Natanz nuclear facility. The head of the U.N.’s nuclear agency acknowledged Tehran is building an underground advanced centrifuge assembly plant. https://t.co/S5AL4sPn2L
— The Associated Press (@AP) October 28, 2020
The “breakout-time” needed for Iran to build a nuclear weapon is now estimated by experts to be around three months, the AP reported. Grossi told the AP that Iran currently does not yet have enough enriched uranium to produce a weapon, despite having nearly 2.5 tons of the element enriched to 4.5% purity by his account.
The construction ramps up right as the United States approaches an election featuring two starkly different stances on Iran policy. President Donald Trump’s administration has carried out a campaign of “maximum pressure,” reinstating heavy sanctions on Iran after pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, per previous reporting. (RELATED: ‘If You F**k Around With Us’: Trump Warns Iran Not To Screw Around With The US)
Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who was Vice President in the Obama Administration that brokered the nuclear deal in 2015, has pledged to take a less hawkish approach that would include trying to rejoin the Iran deal if he is elected Nov. 3, per CNN.