IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Iran building at underground nuclear facility

29th October, 2020 International Relations

Context: Inspectors from the UN’s atomic watchdog have confirmed Iran has started building an underground centrifuge assembly plant after its previous one exploded in what Tehran called a sabotage attack over the summer.

  • Iran also continues to stockpile greater amounts of low-enriched uranium, but does not appear to possess enough to produce a weapon.
  • Natanz hosts the country’s main uranium enrichment facility. Its centrifuges rapidly spin uranium hexafluoride gas to enrich uranium.


  • In 2002, satellite photos showed Iran building an underground facility at the site, some 200 kilometers south of the capital, Tehran.
  • Natanz had been targeted by the Stuxnet computer virus previously, which was believed to be a creation of the U.S. and Israel.

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

  • Under the provisions of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
  • Iran is allowed to produce a certain amount of enriched uranium for non-military purposes.
  • In return, Iran was offered economic incentives by the countries involved.
  • S. unilaterally pulled out of the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions, however, the other signatories — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — have been struggling to keep the deal alive.

Not enough uranium

  • Iran has been steadily exceeding the deal’s limits on uranium it can stockpile and the purity to which it can enrich uranium
  • Still though, Iran has continued to allow IAEA inspectors full access to its nuclear facilities, including Natanz.
  • The IAEA’s current assessment states that Iran does not at the moment possess a significant quantity of uranium — defined by the agency as enough to produce a bomb