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Iran starts building underground nuclear facility: IAEA via Aljazeera

UN’s atomic watchdog confirms Iran has started building an underground centrifuge assembly plant.

Inspectors from the United Nations’ 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, according to the agency’s head.

Iran also continues to stockpile greater amounts of low-enriched uranium, but does not appear to possess enough to produce a weapon, Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told The Associated Press on Tuesday in an interview in Berlin.

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He would not give further details saying it’s “confidential information”. Iran’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Natanz hosts the country’s main uranium enrichment facility. In its long underground halls, centrifuges rapidly spin uranium hexafluoride gas to enrich uranium.

Natanz became a flashpoint for Western fears about Iran’s nuclear programme in 2002, when satellite photos showed Iran build

ing an underground facility at the site, about 200km (125 miles) south of the capital, Tehran.

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In the latest IAEA quarterly report, the agency reported as of August 25 Iran had stockpiled 2,105.4kg (4,641.6 pounds) of low-enriched uranium, well above the 202.8kg (447.1 pounds) allowed under the nuclear deal.

It was also enriching uranium to a purity of 4.5 percent, higher than the 3.67 percent allowed under the accord.

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‘Significant quantity’

According to a widely cited analysis by the Washington-based Arms Control Association, Iran would need about 1,050kg (1.16 tonnes) of low-enriched uranium – under 5 percent purity – in gas form and would then need to enrich it further to weapons-grade, or more than 90 percent purity, to make a nuclear weapon.

The IAEA’s current assessment is, however, that Iran does not at the moment possess a “significant quantity” of uranium – defined by the agency as enough to produce a bomb – according to Grossi.

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Iran insists it has no interest in producing a bomb and Grossi noted before the nuclear agreement, Tehran enriched its uranium up to 20 percent purity, which is just a short technical step away from the weapons-grade level of 90 percent. And in 2013, Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium was already more than 7,000kg (7.72 tonnes) with higher enrichment, but it did not pursue a bomb.

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