WASHINGTON -- New evidence is
emerging that Iran has built several secret uranium enrichment plants
in defiance of the International Atomic Energy Agency and its nuclear
The evidence comes to NewsMax from Western diplomats and a former Iranian intelligence officer.
One of the secret plants, located some 20 kilometers to the northeast of Tehran near the Lashgarak dam, houses a clandestine centrifuge uranium enrichment plant, where Iran is making nuclear weapons material, according to an Iranian intelligence officer who has defected to the West.
A Chinese contractor began work in 1995 on the Lashgarak plant, disguised as part of a bridge near the Latian dam on the fast-flowing Jajerud river, he said.
The plant was buried in a series of nine tunnels beneath the lake that were disguised as bridge pilings, the former intelligence officer said. Once the underground facility was installed, construction work on the bridge across the Jajerud river was abandoned.
The 2,200-square-meter buried plant now houses uranium enrichment centrifuges and is run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, or Pasdaran, he said.
The existence of the secret centrifuge plant, code-named Zirzamin 27, was first revealed by the Telegraph newspaper in London yesterday.
The Persian word zirzamin means "underground," and is used to describe underground cellars, presses, or springs.
According to the Telegraph, "27 refers to the 27-year-old Iranian revolution."
Another, possibly related site has been disguised as a fish farm near a village 60 kilometers north of Iran's Busheir power plant on the Persian Gulf.
The second site was completed around six to eight months ago, the former Iranian intelligence officer said. Part of it was built by a Canadian company that specializes in building warehouses using material that cannot be scanned by airborne sensors.
The former Iranian intelligence officer has provided information in the past regarding clandestine Iranian nuclear and missile locations that has been verified by Western intelligence agencies.
United Nations inspectors first suspected Iran might have a parallel military program in 2004, when efforts to visit a military site at Lavizan, in an area of Tehran controlled by the Revolutionary Guards, were thwarted. To prevent U.N. inspections of the Lavizan site, the Tehran municipality (then headed by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who became Iran's president last year) razed the laboratories to the ground and carted away the earth.
Commercial satellite images, obtained by the Institute for Science and International Security, documented Iran's destruction of the site in early 2004 following IAEA requests to inspect it.
Nearly two years after the destruction, IAEA inspectors successfully located some of the equipment once used at the site and took environmental swipes for further analysis at the IAEA laboratory at Siebersdorf, Austria.
The samples taken from the Lavizan equipment tested positive for "natural and high enriched uranium," according to a report from IAEA inspectors to the Board of Governors released today. Under standard IAEA procedures, a second laboratory confirmed the results before they were released.
"Many of us assume that Iran has a parallel uranium enrichment program," a U.S. official told NewsMax.
"Iran keeps talking about research and development. But their declared enrichment plant at Natanz is not for research and development. It is a commercial scale facility. So where did they do all that R&D?" the official added.
Iran's R&D efforts have remained secret and could conceal significant production of centrifuges for a parallel, military enrichment program, diplomats based in Vienna told NewsMax.
Iran told the IAEA on June 6 that it was resuming uranium enrichment at an industrial-scale facility in Natanz, but has not declared the parallel program.
The U.N. Security Council called on Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment activities in March.
Former European Union official Javier Solana traveled to Tehran on June 6 to deliver an offer by the Permanent Five members of the Security Council plus Germany to provide Iran with technology and economic incentives, in exchange for a verifiable suspension of its uranium enrichment activities.
Instead, Iran notified the IAEA while Solana was in Tehran that it had "started feeding" uranium hexafluoride gas into an enrichment cascade composed of 164 high-speed centrifuges, and was "continuing its installation work on the other 164-machine cascades," the latest IAEA report states.
Iran also said it had launched "a new conversion campaign" of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) feedstock for enrichment that same day.
The IAEA report noted that inspectors continued to question Iranian officials about the suspected parallel program to make UF4 feedstock, known as the Green Salt Project, as well as work on "high explosives testing" and a possible nuclear missile re-entry vehicle. However, "Iran has not expressed readiness to discuss these topics further," the report noted.