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The ‘secret’ Iran nuclear facility ‘exposed’ by Israel has been around for a decade

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An analysis of satellite imagery indicates Iran is assiduously working to gain more enriched uranium for its nuclear weapons programme, called AMAD.

New Delhi: Israel’s claim that it has accessed key documents related to Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, including its underground facility, Fordow, does not reveal anything new, say experts.

They claim that the International Atomic Energy Agency already knew these details and that Iran’s underground nuclear complex has been in existence for more than a decade.

The most interesting document was, however, the schematic drawing of the underground Qom Fuel Enrichment Facility. An analysis of satellite imagery indicates Iran is assiduously working to gain more enriched uranium for its nuclear weapons programme, called AMAD.

Fordow constructed between 2004 & 2009

The underground facility, Fordow, was conceived during President Mohammad Khatami’s tenure but the work was fast-tracked under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. While the construction of underground tunnels began in 2004, some work is still going on.

There are two distinct sites of the Fordow plant. The underground area with four entrances (two of these are twin) supposedly contains at least four cascades. The other area is about 2.5 km away, consisting of administrative buildings and a small research and development (R&D) complex.

The joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA) or the Iran nuclear deal, which was signed in July 2015, capped two-thirds of Iran’s gas centrifuges and its uranium enrichment to 3.67 per cent.

The Fordow site was expected to be closed down and/or converted to an R&D complex. The satellite images of the area suggest otherwise.

The tunnel complex

This complex was constructed between 2004 and 2009. The structure under the mountain was unknown to the world except the nuclear watchdog, IAEA.

After Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu displayed the ‘Project AMAD’ documents, the shape of the underground tunnels became clear.

The schematic drawing found in the documents fits very perfectly on the mountain and indicates that tunnels of almost 1,200 m length and possibly 40-50 m width were probably created. The drawing, however, shows neither the rear access portal nor the emergency exit.

The complex has been provided with double layered security fencing. Four entry points have been separately fenced with an additional layer.

Vehicular movements have been noticed at two of the entrances over a period of time.

The administrative complex

The administrative complex, which is still under construction, has been provided with two more layers of security fencing covering the entire Fordow complex.

The R&D area is slightly away from the administrative buildings for obvious reasons. It also has seven semi-underground bunkers with revetment all around.

It is suspected that the construction of a new underground structure started immediately after the signing of JCPOA and possibly completed as late as Mar 2018.

This underground structure with an area of more than 1,800 sq m and a perimeter of 250 m is at least 3-5-storey deep. It possibly has two entrances, one of which has been separated by a road from the rest of the buildings.

Two of the buildings have been connected with a first floor level curved pathway. A high-bay garage type of building is constructed partially over the underground complex.

Hopefully, the IAEA would be inspecting this underground facility and related buildings during its future inspections.

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