Diplomacy

Dissident Group Claims Iran Operating Another Hidden Nuke Facility

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) identified another site where it claims that Iran is carrying on undeclared nuclear research, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran said underground labs in suburban Tehran have been used since 2008 to enrich uranium. It said the plant, named Lavizan-3 after the neighborhood where many officers and their families live, is reached through tunnels leading from under a building ostensibly used to process passports and identity cards.

The claims could not be independently verified and U.S. officials declined to comment.

The Washington Free Beacon provided additional details regarding the site the NCRI names:

The site has operated in secret since at least 2008. Iranian regime scientists have used it to conduct critical research into uranium using highly advanced centrifuges that more quickly enrich the substance to levels necessary for a nuclear weapon, according to the findings.

The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) is said to be “directly responsible” for guarding the underground site and preventing it from being detected by Western inspectors.

Part of the key concern among critics of the Obama administration’s diplomacy with Iran is that the regime has a history of obfuscating its nuclear program. Many of the research sites have not been fully acknowledged by Tehran, leading some to suspect that even under a nuclear deal, Iran could continue to pursue its controversial work in secret.

NCRI takes credit for revealing the existence of both the Natanz uranium enrichment facility and the Arak heavy water reactor, which, when operational, could produce plutonium that could be used for a nuclear weapon.

According to the Institute for Science and International Security, in the case of Natanz, NCRI identified the site in August of 2002. In December of the same year, the institute “released satellite photos of the facility for the first time and identified the site correctly as a gas centrifuge enrichment facility.” The identification of Arak followed the same pattern.

In November 2013, a former Obama administration official told The New York Times that “there has never been a time in the past 15 years or so when Iran didn’t have a hidden facility in construction.” Last year, in testimony at a Congressional hearing, former Director of National Intelligence Gen. Michael Hayden said of Iran, “[t]hey’re going to build the fissile material for a weapon, the HEU (Highly Enriched Uranium) at a site about which we have no knowledge.” Shortly after Hayden’s testimony, the Times reported that American intelligence officials asserted similarly that, “Iran probably would use covert facilities — rather than its declared nuclear sites — for the production of highly enriched uranium for a weapon.”

[Photo: openDemocracy / Flickr ]