Iran moving key nuclear facility underground: report

Iran is moving a critical nuclear facility underground following a July explosion that destroyed a centrifuge assembly hall at a nuclear fuel enrichment facility in Natanz, according to the visual investigations team of The New York Times.

The Times collaborated with Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in California, to interpret a new image depicting tunnel entrances for underground construction in the mountain foothills south of the Natanz facility.

Following the explosion in July, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said the destroyed building would be rebuilt in “the heart of the mountains.”


It is unclear who was responsible for the attack on the facility. However, a spokesman for Iran’s top security body said in July the cause had been accurately determined but denied to reveal the primary suspect.

“Due to security considerations, the cause and manner of the incident will be announced at a convenient time,” said Keyvan Khosravi.

Lewis said the new location under a mountain ridge is likely to be more secure than the previous centrifuge assembly.

“It is located far from a road and the ridge offers significant overburden that would protect the facility from air attack,” Lewis stated in a written statement.

Lewis cited geographic images of the potential site, pointing toward two tunnel entrances on either side of a large ridge “with a pile of soil from excavation nearby.”

“The major clue is the pile of spoil from the excavation that was not present in July,” said Lewis. “Iran also regraded a pair of roads on each side of the ridge leading to what appear to be tunnel entrances.”


The July fire at the Natanz facility escalated tensions among Iranian officials alleging evidence of foreign interference attempting to prevent Iran from pursuing its nuclear efforts.

Last month, the country’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in a daylight attack, with some Iranian officials alleging Israel and the U.S. were behind the operation.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz responded to Iran’s allegations after the July explosion, saying: “Not every incident that transpires in Iran necessarily has something to do with us.”

Regarding the killing of Fakhrizadeh, Israeli Cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi said in an interview on N12’s “Meet the Press” he had “no clue” who was behind the attack.