Iran denies it is building secret nuclear facility

Nuke chief Salehi says country has no undeclared nuclear sites; opposition claims uranium enrichment plant hidden in mountains.

Ali Akbar Salehi 298 ap (photo credit: )
Ali Akbar Salehi 298 ap
(photo credit: )
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran is denying an opposition group's claim that it is building a secret nuclear facility west of the capital, the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported on Friday.
The head of Iran's nuclear agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the country has no undeclared nuclear sites.
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On Thursday, an Iranian opposition group claimed to have discovered a new uranium enrichment plant being built about 75 miles (120 kilometers) west of Tehran and said it was 85 percent complete.
A US government official also disputed the claim by the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, saying the site did not appear to have a nuclear role. The official said the US has known about the facility for years but has no reason to think it is nuclear.
Prominent Iranian opposition members claimed to have revealed a secret uranium enrichment site buried deep in the mountains northwest of Teheran, according to an AFP report on Thursday.
According to the report, the enrichment site is managed by Iran's defense ministry and construction began in 2005 in Abyek, roughly 70 miles northwest of Teheran, the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI), revealed.
"This is controlled, run and operated... by the ministry of defense," said Alireza Jafarzadeh, former media spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) at a press conference in Washington DC.
The PMOI, the main organization in the NCRI, has been officially recognized as a foreign terror organization by the US, however in July, a judge ruled that the group should be removed from the foreign terror list.
Until now, Iran has spent 100 million dollars on the project, said Soona Samsami, former US representative for the NCRI. He said that around 85 percent of construction of the site has been completed.
Samsami and Jafarzadeh presented satellite photographs of the alleged uranium enrichment location which they say supports information received from sources "inside the Iranian regime." The two presented what they said were four entrances and a tunnel to the site.
On top of the tunnel, a mountain peak stands at a height of 100 meters. Nuclear experts said a height of 80 meters is needed to block detection through radioactive emissions, explained Jafarzadeh. The site is protected from aerial bombardment due to the mountain's location, he added.
The tunnel, with dimensions of eight meters at the width and 200 meters in length, goes deep underground to three large halls which were designed to hold centrifuge cascades, utilized in the process of uranium enrichment, Jafarzadeh said.
When construction of the facility began, Iran had denied any nuclear activities, said the opposition members.
The data revealed about the Behjatabad-Abyek site was shared with the US government, US Congress and the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency.