TEHRAN— Iran is moving its production of higher-enriched uranium to a mountain bunker where it plans to triple output by using more advanced centrifuges, state television reported Wednesday.
Iran says the announcement is a response to a letter Friday from Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which reiterated “concerns about the possible military dimensions” of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear energy program.
“Our answer is increased work in the sphere of nuclear technology and know-how,” Iranian nuclear chief Fereydoun Abbasi told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
The moving of Iran’s most sensitive nuclear equipment deep inside a mountain had been predicted by Iranian nuclear officials in the past. But the sharp increase in production of uranium enriched to nearly 20 percent is new and will further heighten tensions between Iran and world powers distrustful of the nature of the Iran’s nuclear program.
Currently, Iran is enriching uranium at its Natanz site, where the bulk of the output is nuclear fuel enriched to 3.5 percent — suitable to power reactors that generate electricity. The new location, named Fordo, is dug deep into a mountain next to a military base near the city of Qom, a center of Shiite learning. It was long kept secret but now is monitored by the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog. The agency says there currently are no centrifuges inside the mountain bunker.