The Iranians, despite a fourth round of UN sanctions last year and further punitive measures from the European Union and the US, have remained defiant.
Hopes that the Stuxnet computer virus attack by Western powers on Iran’s nuclear technology would prove crippling have faded. The virus succeeded in crippling a number of Iranian centrifuges but analysts now think the effects have worn off and production of highly enriched uranium has accelerated again.
The IAEA will provide indications that enriched uranium production is moving from the long-established Natanz facility to Fordow, an underground plant that is regarded by Iran as bomb-proof near the holy city of Qom. Iran has produced more than 70kg of 20 per cent enriched uranium and would easily increase its output if production shifts to the mountain plant. Scientists say that 20 per cent enriched uranium can be refined to the 90 per cent weapons grade level without design changes in the production lines.