Iran has reportedly begun construction at their underground nuclear facility at Fordo as tensions between the nation and the U.S. rise.
Iran has not acknowledged the new construction at Fordo and it is unclear what the building is being constructed for, according to the Associated Press (AP).
Construction at the site reportedly began in late September, with satellite images obtained by the AP showing the construction is being done at the northwest corner of the site, which is approximately 55 miles southwest of Tehran. The site is built within a mountain, protecting it from any possible airstrikes, the AP reported.
The new construction is reportedly near other research-and-development buildings at Fordo, such as Iran’s National Vacuum Technology Center. Vacuum technology is used to create Iran’s uranium-gas centrifuges which is used to enrich uranium, according to the AP.
#Fordow Uranium Enrichment Plan #IRAN – New construction activity located in the support/R&D area, 350 meters East of the actual complex. Leveling started in September 2020. Foundation trenches were dug for a new 50x70m structure which purpose is currently unknown. #JCPOA #IMINT pic.twitter.com/k42vTZrJni
— Observer IL (@Obs_IL) December 16, 2020
“Any changes at this site will be carefully watched as a sign of where Iran’s nuclear program is headed,” Jeffrey Lewis, an expert who studies at Iran at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies said, according to the AP.
Iran has also been working on construction at its Natanz nuclear facility, according to the AP.
Iran’s parliament approved a bill on Dec. 1 that would suspend United Nations inspections of its nuclear facilities and boost its uranium enrichment program if international sanctions on Iran’s oil and gas sector were not lifted, according to the state-backed Islamic Republic News Agency. (RELATED: Trump Signs Executive Order Reinstating Pre-Nuke Deal Iran Sanctions Despite UN Objections – Adds 27 New Targeted Bodies To Sanctions List)
However, President-elect Joe Biden is willing to re-join the deal, which President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018, citing Iran’s ballistic missile program, regional policies and other issues, according to the AP.
Under the 2015 deal, Iran had agreed to stop enriching uranium at Fordo, instead turning the site into “a nuclear, physics and technology center,” the AP reported. Iran has since resumed enrichment following the end of the deal. The U.S. has since increased sanctions on the nation.
Biden has since said he is willing to rejoin the nuclear deal if Iran strictly complies with the rules, according to The New York Times. Biden also added that he would lift the sanctions that Trump imposed, according to the report.