Reprinted from NewsMax.com
Iran Completes Secret Uranium Plant
Kenneth R. Timmerman, NewsMax.com
Friday, April 21, 2006
WASHINGTON -- Just when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) thought it had its hands around the Iranian nuclear program, NewsMax has learned from intelligence sources that Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps is completing a secret, underground uranium enrichment plant that should begin operating in October 2006.
Work on the new plant, located 50 miles outside the northeastern Iranian city of Mashad, was begun with help from Russian engineers in 2003, Iranian intelligence sources said.
The facility has been built 150 meters below ground in a rugged highlands valley some 38 kilometers southeast of the city of Nishabour. The nearest inhabited area is a town named Homa.
A large agricultural center was constructed overhead to disguise the existence of the buried plant, the sources said. A similar disguise was initially used to hide the existence of the Natanz uranium enrichment plant to the southwest of Tehran, before a foreign government revealed its existence to the IAEA.
Over the last seven months, according to former Iranian army military analyst Homayoun Moghaddam, now exiled in Europe, scientists and technicians from Belarus and Ukraine have been working on site to prepare the new facility to accommodate 155,000 P1 and P2 uranium enrichment centrifuges.
He said the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Department, which is in charge of the facility, refers to it as the Shahid Moradian center, and that 850 Iranian scientists and technicians are currently working there, along with 85 experts from Belarus and Ukraine.
Their goal is to enrich enough uranium to build at least nine nuclear weapons per year, and to keep the site secret for the next three years, Moghaddam said.
The IAEA has verified previously clandestine production in Iran of the P1 centrifuge, an older design copied by Pakistan from plans acquired in Europe in the late 1970s by Dr. A.Q. Khan.
Iran announced last week that it had successfully begun enrichment of uranium in a cascade of 164 P1 centrifuges at a pilot plant in Natanz, in defiance of a United Nations Security Council statement calling on Iran to cease all enrichment activities by April 28.
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also announced last week that Iran was now capable of producing the more advanced P2 centrifuge, which is considered more efficient and more reliable than the older P1 design.
Until his announcement, Iranian officials had denied reports that they had imported P2 centrifuges from the A.Q. Khan network and claimed that sample P2 centrifuges found in Iran had been produced experimentally by a private company not working on a government contract. But these latest reports of a completely separate, clandestine enrichment facility near Nishabour, if confirmed, would completely alter the picture the IAEA has constructed of Iran's nuclear infrastructure.
"I would argue that they have a parallel program of some size," said Paul Leventhal, a former U.S. Senate aid and founder of the Nuclear Control Institute, an independent research and advocacy group in Washington, D.C.
Leventhal was debating Iran's nuclear programs on the "NewsHour" program with Jim Lehrer on April 11 before information on the Nishabour facility was made public.
"I would also caution against a grand deception by Iran to play into Western perceptions of Iran as being technologically and industrially backward, and apparently having problems in facilities that they're letting the IAEA into, while, at unknown locations, they are proceeding with all the technological help and technology that money can buy," Leventhal added.