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Satellite images show activity at Iran site exposed in Mossad-seized nuke files

Facility that allegedly had been used to produce key nuclear component was covered up in recent months, after IAEA inspection of other suspected sites

Vehicles seen at a site in Sanjarian, near Tehran, previously identified as an Iranian nuclear research site, in a satellite image from October 15, 2020. (The Intel Lab/Maxar)
Vehicles seen at a site in Sanjarian, near Tehran, previously identified as an Iranian nuclear research site, in a satellite image from October 15, 2020. (The Intel Lab/Maxar)

Satellite images taken last year appear to show concealment activity at an Iranian facility previously identified as a site where Tehran was accused of manufacturing a key component for its nuclear program.

The images, taken by Maxar Technologies, and analyzed by private Israeli intelligence outfit The Intel Lab and the Washington DC-based Institute for Science and International Security, show trucks and earthworks taking place at Sanjarian, a small town outside of Tehran.

The images, first reported by Fox News, show 18 vehicles at the site on October 15, 2020, as well as excavations and more vehicles in January.

The site was covered up in March, and all that is currently visible are trenches and excavation swirls.

Vehicles and excavations seen at a site in Sanjarian, near Tehran, previously identified as an Iranian nuclear research site, in a satellite image from January 18, 2021. (The Intel Lab/Maxar)

According to the institute, also known as ISIS, the nuclear archive smuggled out of Iran by Israel’s Mossad spy agency in 2018 contained information about Sanjarian’s role in plans to produce shockwave generators, which are key components in the miniaturization of nuclear weapons.

It said the site was used as part of the Amad Plan — Iran’s nuclear weapons program, which Iran claims was halted in 2003 but which Israel says continued in secret — to conduct a high number of experiments with shockwave generators and exploding bridgewires, which are a component in the generators.

At one point, 136 tests were conducted within seven months in 2002-2003 in the site’s two blast chambers. The nuclear archive is said to have contained photos of the site from around that time.

“The concealment site 100 meters away across the dry stream bed is very important and the world should be aware of it,” the institute said in a series of tweets early Wednesday. “Burying activities took place between 2004 and 2005, at the end of the Amad Plan and the downsizing and further concealment of the program.”

“No visible activity took place for years to come,” it said.

But then Israel seized the archive and provided information to the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency that prompted it to inspect several former nuclear sites that were previously unknown.

Apparently following that development, activities renewed at the Sanjarian site in October 2020, where excavations continued until January 2021, according to the ISIS.

“The burial site was reopened, but placed under a white sheeting that covered the excavated area, concealing what’s underneath from outside observers, including satellites,” it said Wednesday. “Less than two months later, the area appeared abandoned, with only empty trenches left behind. Then in just the past month, the area was bulldozed and graded over, like nothing ever happened [t]here.”

A new facility was built nearby, with a three-story building and a surrounding wall.

“One should think about the dates and chronologies,” said Olli Heinonen, a distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center. “These events do not take place in isolation.”

The insinuation appeared to be that Iran, spooked by the IAEA inspecting previously unknown nuclear sites using information obtained by the Mossad, has allegedly attempted to cover up any incriminating evidence from the Sanjarian compound.

The development came as US President Joe Biden’s administration has been engaged in indirect talks with Iran about reversing former president Donald Trump’s exit from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which had removed sanctions in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s atomic activity.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that “hundreds” of sanctions will remain on Iran even if Washington rejoins the accord.

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