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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fordow update - IAEA denial, ISIS cannot confirm, new enrichment at Natanz

After we saw what appeared to be three separate confirmations  of WND's detailed report that there was some sort of massive explosion at the Fordow nuclear enrichment facility in Iran, we are seeing counter-reports.

First, the White House denied the report, saying it did not believe it was credible. That could be explained away, though, if the US was involved.

Then the IAEA denied it as well, but their denial was a little curious:
The U.N. atomic watchdog made clear on Tuesday it had seen no sign of any explosion at one of Iran's most sensitive nuclear plants, backing up Tehran's denial of media reports that such an incident had taken place last week.

"We understand that Iran has denied that there has been an incident at Fordow. This is consistent with our observations," IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said in an emailed statement in response to a question.
That isn't phrased quite as definitively as a flat out denial, but it carries some weight in trying to figure out what happened.

Finally, ISIS, which monitors Iranian nuclear activities from satellite images, says it sees nothing that indicates a blast as massive as had been described:

ISIS obtained from Astrium commercial satellite imagery of the site taken the day after the explosion (figure 1). The imagery shows no exterior signs of an explosion or major damage. Although an underground explosion may not leave visible exterior signs of damage, ISIS observed no intensified activity in the form of emergency or cleanup vehicles that one would expect to see around the site in the wake of an incident of this magnitude (figure 1). The lack of clarity at very high magnification does leave some doubt on whether a set of three white marks near one of the entrances of the southernmost tunnel could indeed be three vehicles. However, an emergency response would be expected to have been prompt and to have involved many more vehicles, particularly given the national importance of the gas centrifuge site and especially of the personnel working underground.

A very cynical response, and I'm not sure I am that cynical, is that Iran knows that it is being monitored by satellite and chose to mute the emergency response.

Meanwhile, Iran told the IAEA it would upgrade the centrifuges being used at the Natanz site.