Saturday, January 14, 2006

Satellite Photo Shows Activity at Iran Nuclear Plant

Los Angeles Times:

A private Washington institution dedicated to lessening the global threat of nuclear weapons released a satellite photograph Friday that it said showed extensive new construction at a restarted nuclear plant in Iran.

The photo of the plant at Natanz was taken Jan. 2 and shows seven buildings under construction that have appeared in the last year, said Corey Hinderstein, deputy director of the Institute for Science and International Security.

The site near the central city of Natanz includes Iran's main fuel enrichment plant where Iranian technicians removed seals Tuesday that had been installed by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran also has resumed nuclear research.

Western powers say the Islamic Republic's nuclear program is aimed at creating nuclear arms, but Iran insists it is building commercial nuclear reactors to generate electricity for homes and factories.

Hinderstein said the photograph released Friday does nothing to solve that dispute.

"When we release the photo, it's not to draw conclusions about what [the facility] is to be used for," she said. "There is nothing about this facility from inside or outside that indicates it is for a nuclear weapons program." The equipment is the same for both civilian and military uses, Hinderstein said.

The photograph's caption says it shows the location of underground centrifuge cascade halls for the fuel enrichment plant, designed to hold about 50,000 centrifuges for installation in modules of 3,000 centrifuges each. READ MORE

Also visible is the pilot fuel enrichment plant, one location where IAEA seals were removed.