It seems so according to recently published and eyeballed satellite images of the site at the Parchin military complex where according to unspecified information by IAEA “member states” Iran has constructed a large explosives containment vessel in which hydrodynamic experiments had allegedly been conducted, see the Annex (para 49, 50) of the November report by Director General Yukiya Amano of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran here [pdf].
“49. … A building was constructed at that time around a large cylindrical object at a location at the Parchin military complex. A large earth berm was subsequently constructed between the building containing the cylinder and a neighbouring building, indicating the probable use of high explosives in the chamber. The Agency has obtained commercial satellite images that are consistent with this information. From independent evidence, including a publication by the foreign expert referred to in paragraph 44 above [identified by David Albright, Director of ISIS, just days before the release of the IAEA report as Ukrainian scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko], the Agency has been able to confirm the date of construction of the cylinder and some of its design features (such as its dimensions), and that it was designed to contain the detonation of up to 70 kilograms of high explosives, which would be suitable for carrying out the type of experiments described in paragraph 43 above.”
A few months later, Iran began construction work at the site. In the beginning (April 2012), numerous small items have been moved out of one of the main buildings apparently to use lots of water to clean the building from inside. Then, two buildings were demolished and one rebuilt. In his latest report on Iran, see here [pdf], Amano complained that,
“55. Since the Director General’s previous report, Iran has conducted further spreading, levelling and compacting of material over most of the site, a significant proportion of which it has also asphalted. There have also been indications of activity within the chamber building.
56. […] Iran has stated that the allegation of nuclear activities at the Parchin site is “baseless” and that “the recent activities claimed to be conducted in the vicinity of the location of interest to the Agency, has nothing to do with specified location by the Agency”. Iran’s explanation for the soil displacement by trucks is that it was “due to constructing the Parchin new road”.
So, final proof in case IAEA inspectors will eventually get access to the site won’t be easy, but certainly not impossible. Does “sanitizing” the site to prevent inspectors from obtaining conclusive samples make any sense? Most probably not. But it is amazing that all these activities at the site took place only after Amano’s heavily criticized publication of the Annex to the November 2011 Iran report (former IAEA DG Mohamed ElBaradei had denied to publish the document in his Iran reports); apparently hasty in the beginning, then more relaxed. More than a year later, work on the small area (at maximum 370 meters long and about 100 meters wide) appears complete.
So, who’s right? Iran having its innocent explanation, or meanwhile heavily biased IAEA under Amano? We don’t know as long as nobody was allowed to take samples. Why then argue further? Yousaf Butt, a research professor and scientist-in-residence at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation at the Monterey Institute of International Studies makes a seemingly plausible observation in a lengthy and heavily distracting, on Syria’s Dair Alzour site, post on Dan Joyner’s ArmsControlLaw blog. Any “sanitizing” activity was done on areas facing east, not west.
There is a simple answer to that. On satellite images it might be easily overlooked that the two main buildings are actually located at the flank and in a gap of a larger hill. No space for proper “sanitizing” (if that was ever necessary). IAEA inspectors will know where to go.
2 June 2013 @ 1:10 pm.
Last modified June 2, 2013.