Iran Moving Centrifuges to Fordow

August 24, 2011

After many months of delay, Iran has finally begun moving centrifuges from the Natanz enrichment plant for installation at the fortified Fordow facility near Qom. On August 22, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, said that some centrifuges had been transferred and the facility is being prepared under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

ISIS previously assessed that Iran’s plans to move 20 percent enrichment to Fordow and triple its production of this material would lead to an expected large stockpile with no logical or immediate use. This strategy could represent part of an on-going, slow moving effort to acclimatize the international community to conditions that would make breakout to nuclear weapons more feasible and quicker. Iran’s activities at Fordow bear close watching.

On August 23, Iranian ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, also announced the visit of IAEA Deputy Director General of Safeguards, Herman Nackaerts, who recently visited five nuclear sites in Iran, including Natanz and the Arak heavy water production plant, the latter which Iran has not previously allowed the IAEA to inspect and remains an outstanding issue for the Agency. According to Soltanieh, during the visit, the two sides also agreed on a monitoring plan for the Fordow enrichment site.

In a potential breakthrough, an Iranian envoy said that Iran had allowed Nackaerts access to a facility for developing advanced centrifuges during this tour. The IAEA, according to the Reuters report, had no comment on what Nackaerts saw or learned.

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