An unconfirmed report initially from the WND website claiming that a sizable explosion has occurred at a key Iranian underground nuclear facility is getting attention—including from the European Union. The Mideast Update has been unable to confirm the blast reports, but a European diplomat did tell The Mideast Update they have “seen the reports and are seeking verification.”
The Times in London is reporting that Israeli officials believe an explosion has in fact damaged the Iranian Fordow facility, a bunker-like nuclear fuel enrichment plant that has long been watched by Western analysts and officials alike.
Initially reported by Reza Kahlili for WND, the article on the blast cited Hamidreza Zakeri, formerly with the Islamic regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and National Security. The report initially was not given much coverage by major news sites and the veracity of the claims remains unclear. The Mideast Update has reached out to numerous contacts around the world, but none have verified the reports.
WND claimed the incident did substantial damage to the Iranian nuclear site and trapped more than 200 people underground. The Fordow nuclear site was developed as an alternative nuclear enrichment facility in addition to the Natantz plant.
Fordow has long been controversial, initially because work for the site was not disclosed to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and was belatedly revealed by Iran. That, combined with the plant’s underground nature, has lead to speculation it may have been intended to be a secret facility for developing nuclear fuel. Despite its disclosure, the site remains a concern, especially following the eventual upgrade of its uranium enrichment capabilities.
Apparent sabotage efforts, ranging from mysterious explosions and assassinations to the Stuxnet computer malware attack, have hampered Iran’s broader nuclear and missile programs over the years. The West and Israel suspect Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, although Iran claims their program is strictly civilian in nature.
The IAEA has repeatedly voiced concerns about possible Iranian research into nuclear weapons and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned last year that Iran would close in on a key nuclear fuel threshold by this summer. A recent report from The Project on U.S. Middle East Nonproliferation Strategy said Iran could achieve the capability to develop the nuclear fuel for a weapon by the middle of 2014.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, January 28, 2013)