Report: Iran doubles number of nuclear centrifuges at underground site

Iran has doubled its nuclear enrichment capacity at its underground facility and has hampered the ability to inspect a military site for nuclear activity, according to a new United Nations watchdog report.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in its quarterly report that Iran more than doubled the number of centrifuges at its Fordo underground site since May, to 2,140 from 1,064, Reuters reported.

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The report also said that Iran’s refusal to allow IAEA inspectors into its Parchin military facility — where Iran is suspected of conducting nuclear tests — would “significantly hamper” the ability to verify Iran’s activity at the site, because Tehran is also suspected of cleaning the site to remove evidence, according to AFP.

The new IAEA report will raise fresh questions about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, as United States, Israel and other Western nations suspect Iran is trying to obtain nuclear weapons.

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only and that it has no intention of building a nuclear bomb.

Israeli leaders have ramped up their rhetoric in recent weeks, suggesting they might launch a strike against Iran’s nuclear program. The Obama administration has advocated against a strike while saying it will not rule out any options to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

The United States and European Union have ramped up sanctions against Iran this year for its nuclear program in an effort to persuade Iran to change course. Congress passed new, tougher sanctions before the August recess.

"Today’s report by the IAEA again underscores Iran’s attempts to deceive the world about its illicit nuclear weapons activities," House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Howard Berman (D-Calif.) said in a statement. "U.S. and international sanctions are beginning to bite deeply, but not enough yet to convince Tehran that it is on a ruinous course. By spurning international talks and advancing its nuclear program, Iran is closing the window on a peaceful solution."

Tehran and a group of six world powers have been negotiating on Iran’s nuclear program this year, but the talks have failed to lead to much agreement.

Iran and the IAEA had also been talking about giving inspectors access to the Parchin military site, but those talks were broken off last week with no plans yet for a follow-up meeting.