Recently-surfaced satellite images reveal a new construction project taking place at Iran’s Fordo nuclear plant; The exact purpose(s) of the construction remains unknown at this time; Fordo was subject to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Newly-revealed satellite images from Maxar Technologies that were initially obtained by the Associated Press show that Iran has begun a new construction project at its underground Fordo nuclear plant. The Fordo site was subject to the 2015 JCPOA, or Iran Nuclear Deal, wherein Iran agreed not to enrich uranium any longer at this specific site.

The specific motives behind the construction of this new facility remain unknown at this time. However, since the 2018 US withdrawal from the deal, the Iranians have violated several of the terms that were originally agreed upon. And as tensions only continue to increase between Iran and the US, concern regarding the purpose for this construction is sure to increase. After all, once the US withdrew from the JCPOA, Iran began enriching uranium at Fordo again.

As noted by an individual named Jeffrey Lewis, who studies Iran and is an expert at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, “This location was a major sticking point in negotiations leading to the Iran nuclear deal. The US insisted Iran close it while Iran’s supreme leader said keeping it was a red line.”

Lewis also noted that “Any changes at this site will be carefully watched as a sign of where Iran’s nuclear program is headed.”

As first noted by the Associated Press, Iranian Mission Spokesman Alireza Miryousefi seemingly sought to justify Iran’s violations of the deal when he stated, “We have always maintained that our current activities, which are in line with the nuclear deal, can and will be immediately reversed once the other parties, including the U.S., come into full compliance with what was agreed upon, in particular on removing sanctions.”

Reports indicate that the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has not commented on the construction as of yet.