WASHINGTON -- New evidence isemerging that Iran has built several secret uranium enrichment plantsin defiance of the International Atomic Energy Agency and its nuclearinspection efforts.
The evidence comes to NewsMax from Western diplomats and aformer Iranian intelligence officer.
One of the secret plants, located some 20 kilometers to the northeastof Tehran near the Lashgarak dam, houses a clandestine centrifugeuranium enrichment plant, where Iran is making nuclear weaponsmaterial, according to an Iranian intelligence officer who hasdefected to the West.
A Chinese contractor began work in 1995 on the Lashgarak plant,disguised as part of a bridge near the Latian dam on the fast-flowingJajerud river, he said.
The plant was buried in a series of nine tunnels beneath thelake that were disguised as bridge pilings, the former intelligenceofficer said. Once the underground facility was installed,construction work on the bridge across the Jajerud river wasabandoned.
The 2,200-square-meter buried plant now houses uranium enrichmentcentrifuges and is run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, orPasdaran, he said.
The existence of the secret centrifuge plant, code-named Zirzamin 27,was first revealed by the Telegraph newspaper in Londonyesterday.
The Persian word zirzamin means "underground," and is used todescribe underground cellars, presses, or springs.
According to the Telegraph, "27 refers to the 27-year-oldIranian revolution."
Another, possibly related site has been disguised as a fish farm neara village 60 kilometers north of Iran's Busheir power plant on thePersian Gulf.
The second site was completed around six to eight months ago, theformer Iranian intelligence officer said. Part of it was built by aCanadian company that specializes in building warehouses usingmaterial that cannot be scanned by airborne sensors.
The former Iranian intelligence officer has provided information inthe past regarding clandestine Iranian nuclear and missile locationsthat has been verified by Western intelligence agencies.
United Nations inspectors first suspected Iran might have a parallelmilitary program in 2004, when efforts to visit a military site atLavizan, in an area of Tehran controlled by the Revolutionary Guards,were thwarted. To prevent U.N. inspections of the Lavizan site, theTehran municipality (then headed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who becameIran's president last year) razed the laboratories to the ground andcarted away the earth.
Commercial satellite images, obtained by the Institute forScience and International Security, documented Iran's destruction ofthe site in early 2004 following IAEA requests to inspect it.
Nearly two years after the destruction, IAEA inspectorssuccessfully located some of the equipment once used at the site andtook environmental swipes for further analysis at the IAEA laboratoryat Siebersdorf, Austria.
The samples taken from the Lavizan equipment tested positive for"natural and high enriched uranium," according to a report from IAEAinspectors to the Board of Governors released today. Under standardIAEA procedures, a second laboratory confirmed the results beforethey were released.
"Many of us assume that Iran has a parallel uranium enrichmentprogram," a U.S. official told NewsMax.
"Iran keeps talking about research and development. But theirdeclared enrichment plant at Natanz is not for research anddevelopment. It is a commercial scale facility. So where did they doall that R&D?" the official added.
Iran's R&D efforts have remained secret and could concealsignificant production of centrifuges for a parallel, militaryenrichment program, diplomats based in Vienna told NewsMax.
Iran told the IAEA on June 6 that it was resuming uranium enrichmentat an industrial-scale facility in Natanz, but has not declared theparallel program.
The U.N. Security Council called on Iran to suspend all uraniumenrichment activities in March.
Former European Union official Javier Solana traveled to Tehran onJune 6 to deliver an offer by the Permanent Five members of theSecurity Council plus Germany to provide Iran with technology andeconomic incentives, in exchange for a verifiable suspension of itsuranium enrichment activities.
Instead, Iran notified the IAEA while Solana was in Tehran that ithad "started feeding" uranium hexafluoride gas into an enrichmentcascade composed of 164 high-speed centrifuges, and was "continuingits installation work on the other 164-machine cascades," the latestIAEA report states.
Iran also said it had launched "a new conversion campaign" ofuranium hexafluoride (UF6) feedstock for enrichment that sameday.
The IAEA report noted that inspectors continued to question Iranianofficials about the suspected parallel program to make UF4 feedstock,known as the Green Salt Project, as well as work on "high explosivestesting" and a possible nuclear missile re-entry vehicle. However,"Iran has not expressed readiness to discuss these topics further,"the report noted.