Friday, January 25, 2013

Major explosion reported at Fordow underground Iranian nuclear facility (UPDATE)

From Reza Kahlili at WND:
An explosion deep within Iran’s Fordow nuclear facility has destroyed much of the installation and trapped about 240 personnel deep underground, according to a former intelligence officer of the Islamic regime.

The previously secret nuclear site has become a center for Iran’s nuclear activity because of the 2,700 centrifuges enriching uranium to the 20-percent level. A further enrichment to weapons grade would take only weeks, experts say.

...According to a source in the security forces protecting Fordow, an explosion on Monday at 11:30 a.m. Tehran time rocked the site, which is buried deep under a mountain and immune not only to airstrikes but to most bunker-buster bombs. The report of the blast came via Hamidreza Zakeri, formerly with the Islamic regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and National Security,

The blast shook facilities within a radius of three miles. Security forces have enforced a no-traffic radius of 15 miles, and the Tehran-Qom highway was shut down for several hours after the blast, the source said. As of Wednesday afternoon, rescue workers had failed to reach the trapped personnel.

The site, about 300 feet under a mountain, had two elevators which now are out of commission. One elevator descended about 240 feet and was used to reach centrifuge chambers. The other went to the bottom to carry heavy equipment and transfer uranium hexafluoride. One emergency staircase reaches the bottom of the site and another one was not complete. The source said the emergency exit southwest of the site is unreachable.

The regime 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.

The information was passed on to U.S. officials but has not been verified or denied by the regime or other sources within the regime.
Fordow is the major known centrifuge facility in Iran, and it had recently doubled the number of centrifuges there.

So if true this is very, very big.

The problem is that there may be many secret facilities, not all of which are known by Western inteligence.

But Fordow was virtually impervious to an airstrike, so this reported sabotage was apparently more effective than anything that could have been done militarily.

(h/t Ellen)

UPDATE: I am told that Reza Kahlili does not have a great record for accuracy with a long history of making similarly stunning claims. I generally don't like to quote WND but this was so specific that I felt it was  better to get the story out there.

The IAEA inspects Fordow regularly, so within a few months we will know whether it mysteriously lost many of its centrifuges. But for now we should be skeptical until we hear something corroborating it - for example, that Iran closed off the area this week.