Iran begins construction at underground nuclear facility at Fordo

Amid tensions with the US, Iran has begun construction at an underground nuclear facility at Fordo, Report says, citing Associated Press.

Construction was taking place at the northwest corner of the site, near the holy Shiite city of Qom, 90 km from Tehran. The actions are likely to be watched keenly by the US, which will witness a transition from Donald Trump administration to president-elect Joe Biden on January 20.

"Any changes at this site will be carefully watched as a sign of where Iran's nuclear program is headed," Jeffrey Lewis, an expert at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, was quoted as saying by AP.

According to the agency report, which cited December 11 photographs of the site, there was a dug foundation for building dozens of pillars. The site sits near Fordo's underground facility, inside a mountain range to protect it from potential airstrikes.

Earlier this week, a Twitter handle, Observer IL, shared images of the Fordo facility. "Uranium Enrichment Plan #IRAN - New construction activity located in the support/R&D area, 350 meters East of the actual complex. Leveling started in September 2020. Foundation trenches were dug for a new 50x70m structure which purpose is currently unknown," the tweet said.

In 2018, US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal. Tehran had agreed that it would limit its uranium enrichment program for the lifting of economic sanctions. Under the 2015 agreement, Iran had decided to stop the uranium enrichment program at Fordo and declared that the facility would be used as a physics center. However, after the US's unilateral withdrawal, Iran sidelined the clauses of the agreement and abandoned the limits imposed by the contract.