Friday, December 09, 2011

What's Going on at Iran's Nuclear Site?


The first clear pictures of Iran’s nuclear site near Isfahan have been published and analyzed following an explosion at or near the site on Nov. 28, and they provide another piece of the puzzle. But what happened there remains a mystery.

Iran’s uranium conversion facility sits outside Isfahan. It is there that yellowcake is turned into uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6), which is then fed into centrifuges and turned into enriched uranium. The enriched uranium then can be made into fuel for power stations, or it can be highly enriched for a nuclear bomb.

Fox News obtained satellite pictures of the Isfahan nuclear site between Dec. 3 and 5, less than a week after reports of explosions in the area were heard. Analysts at the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), which employs some of the most widely respected experts on Iran’s nuclear sites, scrutinized the images and said there is no evidence of an explosion -- but there wouldn’t be clear evidence several days after an event.


Click here to view the ISIS report.


Iranian officials have issued conflicting comments about the blast, which, if it occurred at the uranium conversion facility, could be very damaging to the nation’s nuclear program.

A report of the explosion was first mentioned in the semi-official Fars News website. Then the report was removed. Then it was finally described as an explosion deriving from a military exercise by Isfahan’s governor, Alireza Zaker-Isfahani.

Israeli sources have suggested that the blast occurred at the nuclear facility; Iran, in turn, has denied that any sort of blast happened there.

But others find Iran’s denials suspicious, given that there have been numerous acts of sabotage against its nuclear and military sites and scientists in the last few years. Just last month, an explosion occurred at a sensitive missile site, killing 20 people, including the father of Iran’s Shahab 3 missile. It is not clear what caused that blast, or whether it was accidental, but many believe it was no coincidence.

ISIS analysts who looked at the images from Isfahan said there had been a dramatic change in the landscape around a tunnel leading down to a storage facility on the periphery of the uranium conversion site. Several structures above that storage facility, which had been there for 15 years and stood intact as recently as August, are gone. There now is evidence of bulldozing around the old structures.

It is not clear what is stored in that facility, which used to be a salt mine, or whether the underground storage was damaged. But Iran has been known to store UF6 underground, ISIS says, so it is possible that converted yellowcake was in that facility. According to ISIS, there is no evidence of an explosion, but there wouldn’t be clear evidence several days after an event.

“After five to seven days, that’s what you would be looking at anyway — clean-up,” ISIS senior analyst Paul Brannan told Fox News.

“The pictures we have seen were dramatic insofar as the buildings were there for at least 15 years,” he said. “On Dec. 5, they were gone. Whether or not that is circumstantial is not clear, but it warrants further scrutiny.”

Brannan says much of Iran’s yellowcake has been converted to UF6, but the Iranians still have some stock. Beyond that, however, the nation’s ability to mine and mill yellowcake is limited.

“There is something strange going on,” he said. “It is not clear what it is. There was the recent blast at the missile facility with people killed. There was a report of a blast at Isfahan’s uranium conversion site. A U.S. drone has been downed.

“Something is going on. It’s not clear what it is.” - foxnews

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"Terrain altered near Iran nuclear site"

Satellite images show buildings have been razed and bulldozers were at work at an underground structure near a site where Iran processes uranium, a US-based think tank said on Friday, without offering an explanation.

The Institute for Science and International Security said it had studied satellite photographs of a nuclear site near the Iranian city of Isfahan, after reports two weeks ago that an explosion could be heard in the city.

It found no evidence of damage from an explosion at the nuclear site, but signs of construction work at a site 400 metres away that showed a "significant transformation."

Western countries pay close attention to Iran's uranium processing because they believe it could be used to produce material for an atomic bomb.

The Isfahan site produces uranium gas which can be fed into centrifuges elsewhere to produce the purified uranium needed to run a power plant or make a bomb. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

Attention has been focused on the Isfahan site since Nov. 28, when Iranian media reported an explosion could be heard in the nearby city.

In conflicting reports, the head of the provincial judiciary was quoted as saying a blast could be heard, but the deputy governor denied there had been a big explosion.

ISIS said it had acquired satellite imagery of the Isfahan nuclear site taken in early December.

"There does not appear to be any visible evidence of an explosion, such as building damage or debris, on the grounds of the known nuclear facilities or at the tunnel facility directly north of the Uranium Conversion Facility," it said.

It said, however, it had identified a facility about 400 metres from the perimeter of the nuclear site that "underwent a significant transformation recently."

An Aug. 27 satellite image showed that it consisted of a ramp leading underground with several buildings along the surface. But in a Dec. 5 image the buildings were gone, heavy equipment could be seen around the site and there was evidence of bulldozing activity, ISIS said.

"It is unclear how and why the buildings are no longer present at the site," it added.

ISIS said the underground facility was originally a salt mine dating back to at least the 1980s. It was lately used for storage, although it was unclear what was kept there, ISIS said.

The Nov. 28 report of the sound of a blast in Isfahan came less than three weeks after a massive explosion at a military base near Tehran that killed more than a dozen members of the Revolutionary Guard including the head of its missile forces.

Iran said that explosion, which could be heard as far away as the capital, was caused by an accident while weapons were being moved. - jpost

NOTE: Are we destined for war against Iran because of it's nuclear program? Could these tensions set off a worldwide firestorm that would involve non-terrestrial influence? Could covert warnings of direct intervention by non-earthly forces, that a multitude of people have predicted, actually become a reality? Lon

The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Tehran Defies the West

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