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News Analysis

Unconfirmed Report: Major Explosion at Iranian Nuclear Facility

Tue, January 29, 2013

by: 
Reza Kahlili

News of the explosion at one of Iran’s nuclear facilities is exploding around the world, with independent confirmation and international response pouring in.

Israeli intelligence officials have confirmed the explosion to the Times of London, which is now reporting: “Sources in Tel Aviv said yesterday that they thought the explosion happened last week. The Israeli Government is investigating reports that it led to extensive structural damage and 200 workers had been trapped inside.

“Israel believes the Iranians have not evacuated the surrounding area. It is unclear whether that is because no harmful substances have been released, or because Tehran is trying to avoid sparking panic among residents.”

Also on Sunday, Israel’s acting defense minister called the news “welcome,” and a German newspaper said its own source in Tehran confirmed the report, even while Iran is trying to keep the news under wraps.

An initial report revealed an explosion last Monday deep within Iran’s Fordow nuclear facility destroyed much of the installation, trapping scores of people, including scientists and workers, many of whom are foreign nationals.

According to a member of the security forces at the site, both elevators and the emergency exit had collapsed, and the regime fears loss of lives due to possible radiation after the explosion.

The information comes through Hamidreza Zakeri, a former member of the regime’s intelligence ministry.

The Iranian regime further believes the blast was sabotage and the explosives could have reached the area disguised as equipment or in the uranium hexafluoride stock transferred to the site, the source said. The explosion occurred at the third centrifuge chambers, with the high-grade enriched uranium reserves below them.

At midnight Sunday, Tehran time, however, all regime-controlled media published a two-line announcement by the deputy of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Shamsoldin Berberoodi, that no explosion had taken place at Fordow.

Iran does not want word of the sabotage to leak out because it would badly damage its negotiating position in talks with the 5+1 (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany), sources said. Indeed, the two-line announcement said the reports of the explosion are meant to bring pressure on Iran at the talks.

The regime’s defense ministry, which runs the country’s nuclear program, has dispatched the drill team from the Revolutionary Guards Khatam al-Anbia base to the site, the source said, but as of today no progress had been made to reach those trapped within.

According to the source, the regime has enforced a total blackout on the media and the families of the employees who work at the site. The security forces have also created a security zone around the site to control access and manage the rescue efforts.

The source said the regime’s security forces have attacked many moderate media offices, shutting down their activity and Internet sites. There is no information if these attacks were related to the Fordow explosion.

The site, which is about 300 feet under a mountain and immune to airstrikes and most bunker-buster bombs, is the Islamic regime’s main site, with its more than 2,700 centrifuges to enrich uranium to the 20 percent level, raising international concern about Iran’s nuclear bomb program.

The sabotage was covered internationally on Sunday with Israeli Acting Defense Minister Avi Dichter stating that, “Any explosion in Iran that doesn’t hurt people but hurts its assets is welcome.”

Israel’s biggest daily, Yediot Ahronot, led its Sunday paper with a headline: “The most significant incidence of sabotage in the Iranian nuclear program to date.”

As reported by Globes Online out of Israel, “... former Iranian Republican Guard commander Reza Kahlili, recruited by the CIA and who defected to the U.S., claimed that Iranian sources reported a huge explosion last Monday at Fordow’s centrifuges room. They claim that the explosion destroyed a significant portion of the facility and that 240 workers were trapped underground.”

The Jerusalem Post mentioned Kahlili's report and added a quote from Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Project at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, who noted that Iran is enriching uranium to 20 percent at Fordow, “and it raises concerns because it is buried deep in a mountain.”

Germany’s Die Welt published the report with a headline, “Expert reports severe explosion at nuclear plant.”

“According to a report by Iran expert Reza Kahlili on the Iranian nuclear facility of Fordow, a few days ago a huge explosion took place which destroyed large parts of the plant,” Die Welt said. “Kahlili says he got this information from a former Iranian intelligence official.”

Die Welt, with sources close to the German intelligence agency BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst), stating that Welt am Sonntag (a well-respected German Sunday newspaper) “has received information from an Iranian intelligence service contact confirming that the explosion had actually happened and that 190 workers at the nuclear plant were cut off from the outside world.”

The German newspaper Spiegel also gave big coverage to the story, along with others worldwide.

Regime officials held two high-level meetings on Tuesday afternoon, one at the presidential building and the other at the supreme leader’s residence. The source for this information could only say that all high-level officials participated in the meeting with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and that it lasted till about 9:30 p.m. Tehran time.

Several Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated in recent years, and last year saboteurs struck the power supply to the Fordow facility, temporarily disrupting production. A computer worm called Stuxnet, believed to have originated in the United States, also set Iran’s plans for nuclear weapons back substantially.

Any blow to the Fordow facility would be a huge blow to the regime because, despite severe international pressure and sanctions, it has refused to halt the 20 percent uranium-enrichment process at this site. It takes only weeks to further enrich the stock at the 20 percent level to weapon grade for a nuclear bomb.

Sources in the Islamic regime previously have revealed to Kahlili the existence of:

Reza Kahlili, a pseudonym, worked for the CIA inside Iran in the 1980s and ‘90s. He is the author the award-winning book, A Time to Betray, he serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and the advisory board of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran.