By Marc Israel Sellem
A report by the UN’s nuclear watchdog proves that Israel’s analysis of Iran’s nuclear program is correct, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Saturday.
Netanyahu said the International Atomic Energy Agency report proves that Iran is continuing its nuclear program “without let-up.”
Iran “is enriching uranium to a high level of 20%, while grossly ignoring the demands of the international community,” Netanyahu said in a written statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Netanyahu was responding to the UN nuclear watchdog report which said that Iran has sharply stepped up its controversial uranium enrichment drive.
The IAEA also reported its failed mission to Tehran this week to try and get Iran to respond to allegations of research relevant for the development of nuclear weapons.
The IAEA report to member states showed Iran had carried out a significant expansion of activities at its main enrichment plant near the central city of Natanz, and also increased work at the Fordow underground facility.
Enriched uranium can be used to fuel nuclear power plants, which is Iran’s stated aim, or provide material for bombs if refined much further, which the West suspects is Tehran’s ultimate aim.
At Natanz, the IAEA report said 52 cascades – each containing around 170 centrifuges – were now operating, up from 37 in November.
At Fordow, almost 700 centrifuges are now refining uranium to a fissile concentration of 20 percent and preparations are under way to install many more, the IAEA report showed.
Fordow is of particular concern for the West and Israel as Iran is shifting the most sensitive aspect of its nuclear work, refining uranium to a level that takes it significantly closer to potential bomb material, to the site.
Estimated to be buried beneath 80 meters of rock and soil, it gives Iran better protection against any Israeli or US military strikes.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak has warned that the Islamic state’s nuclear research could soon pass into what he called a “zone of immunity,” protected from outside disruption.
The IAEA report showed Iran had now produced nearly 110 kg of uranium enriched to 20 percent since early 2010. Western experts say about 250 kg is needed for a nuclear weapon.