|RQ-4 Global Hawk Unmanned Spy Drone|
|Fordo uranium enrichment site|
Iran is locked in a dispute with the U.S. and its allies over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, which the West believes aims to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies the accusations, saying its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity and producing isotopes to treat medical patients.
Long kept secret, the Fordo site is built next to a military complex to protect it in case of attack. Iran only acknowledged Fordo’s existence after Western intelligence agencies identified it in September 2009. The facility is reportedly located 295 feet (90 meters) underneath a mountain.
Iran has claimed to shoot down U.S. spy planes in the past. Earlier this month, Iranian military officials showed Russian experts several U.S. drones they said were shot down in recent years.
|Cascade Uranium Enrichment Process|
Iran has been producing uranium enriched up to 5 percent for years and began the higher enrichment — up to near 20 percent, considered a threshold between low and high enriched uranium — in February 2010, claiming it needs the higher enriched uranium to produce fuel for a Tehran reactor that makes medical radioisotopes needed for cancer patients.
According to Abbasi, the nuclear chief, the new centrifuges at Fordo would be more advanced than the decades old P-1 type once acquired on the black market and in use at Iran's main enrichment facility in Natanz.
He also added that Iran would triple the output of its higher enrichment program this year and would move the entire program to Fordo from Natanz. The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, would monitor the transfer, he said.
Last month, the IAEA said in a report that Iran estimates it has produced a total of about 125 pounds, or 56.7 kilograms, of uranium enriched to 20 percent by May 21st.
Abbasi's announcement came a day after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized the IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, claiming the director has discredited the world body by alleging that Iran may be working on a nuclear weapons program.
Ahmadinejad was reacting to Amano's earlier comments alleging that some aspects of Iran's nuclear activities could be linked to a weapons program, according to latest information obtained by the U.N. watchdog.