Iran has started uranium enrichment at an underground site near the holy city of Qom, according to reports in the country’s hardline Kayhan newspaper.

“Kayhan received reports yesterday that show Iran has begun uranium enrichment at the Fordo facility amid heightened foreign enemy threats,” the newspaper said in a front-page report, according to the Guardian. Kayhan’s manager is a representative of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final word on important matters of state, the Guardian reported.

Iran has been enriching uranium to less than 5% since 2003 at a pilot facility in Natanz, and its Fuel Enrichment Plant (also at Natanz) has been in operation for almost five years. Iran estimates that it has produced around 4922 kg of low enriched UF6 at the FEP from the start of operation in February 2007 to 1 November 2011, the IAEA reported in November.

In February 2010, Iran started enrichment to nearly 20% because it needed higher-grade material to produce fuel for the Tehran research reactor. Between 14 September and 28 October 2011, Iran estimates that it produced approximately 6kg of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP).

Iran has informed the IAEA that the purpose of Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (near Qom) is also for the production of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235, as well as R&D. The facility will use IR-1 centrifuges, the same type that are currently in operation at Natanz. During an inspection on 23 and 24 October 2011, the IAEA verified that Iran had installed all 174 centrifuges in each of two cascades at Fordow.