Analysis

Iran: Tehran Ups the Ante With New Uranium Enrichment
2009 satellite image of the Fordow uranium enrichment facility, located about 20 miles north northeast of Qom, Iran. (AP Photo/GeoEye Satellite Image, IHS Jane's Analysis, File)
January 9, 2012
| Security
| Middle East and North Africa
Summary
Iran's decision to begin enriching uranium at a fortified underground facility marks a significant advancement in its nuclear weapons program and is another display of defiance toward the international community. In this analysis, LIGNET assesses the significance of the enrichment at the Fordow underground nuclear plant and gives its exclusive prediction of how many nuclear weapons Iran could produce and fast it could build one using the Fordow facility.

Over the weekend, Iran began enriching uranium at the formerly secret Fordow nuclear facility, according to press reports. The enrichment program, which aims to enrich uranium to the 20 percent uranium-235 level, was moved from Iran's other enrichment facility at Natanz. Iran claims it needs uranium enriched to this higher level to fuel a research reactor in Tehran that produces medical isotopes. While Iranian officials claim the Fordow facility will only enrich uranium to the 20 percent level, the startup of this facility will be a significant step toward Iranian efforts to produce weapons-grade nuclear fuel.

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