Iran put nuclear site near base in case of attack
Iran's nuclear chief said Tuesday his country built its newly revealed uranium enrichment facility inside a mountain and next to a military site to ensure continuity of its nuclear activities in case of an attack, AP reported.
Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who also heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the site near the holy city of Qom is next to an ammunition depot controlled by the elite Revolutionary Guard, Iran's most powerful military force. He said the only connection between the Qom nuclear facility and the Guard is the Guard would protect it against possible attacks.
"This site is at the base of a mountain and was selected on purpose in a place that would be protected against aerial attack. That's why the site was chosen adjacent to a military site," Salehi told a news conference. "It was intended to safeguard our nuclear facilities and reduce the cost of active defense system. If we had chosen another site, we would have had to set up another aerial defense system."
Details about the newly revealed site and the fact that Iran kept its construction secret for years have raised more suspicion among experts and Western governments that Iran's nuclear program is aimed at producing weapons - something Tehran has long denied. The U.S. and its allies have strongly condemned Iran over the site and demanded it immediately come clean on its nuclear activities or face harsher international sanctions.
Salehi said the site was selected after a careful study by the authorities and will be open to inspections by the U.N. nuclear watchdog. He said Iran is in talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency to set a timetable "soon" for a visit.
He gave the location of the site as about 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of capital Tehran on the road leading to Qom. That is about 20 miles (30 kilometers) north of Qom. He dismissed a statement by Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman on Monday that the facility was near the village of Fordo, which is about 30 miles south of Qom.
A satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe and GeoEye shows a well-fortified facility built into a mountain about 20 miles northeast of Qom, with ventilation shafts and a nearby surface-to-air missile site, according to defense consultancy IHS Jane's, which did the analysis of the imagery. The image was taken in September.
GlobalSecurity.org analyzed images from 2005 and January 2009 when the site was in an earlier phase of construction and believes the facility is not underground but was instead cut into a mountain. It is constructed of heavily reinforced concrete and is about the size of a football field - large enough to house 3,000 centrifuges used to refine uranium.