Saturday, November 12, 2011

12-Nov-11: Google publishes aerial views of Iranian heavy-water facility

As anxiety grows about Iran's march towards a nuclear weapons arsenal, Google today released satellite images of facilities at two Iranian cities - Arak and Natanz - that the UN claims may be used to develop nuclear weapons.

The pictures, of which two are below, show changes to the facilities between October 2010 and last month. The images were released by Google after this past week's report by the UN nuclear watching agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), that concluded there are 'serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear programme'.

This source says the Fuel Enrichment Plant and Pilot Fuel Enrichment plant in Natanz has been described as 'the facility at the heart of Iran's dispute with the UN'. It is also thought to be the largest nuclear facility in Iran, and has anti-aircraft weapons to defend itself from potential airstrikes.

The satellite images below are of the heavy water production plant facility in Arak. One was taken a year ago, and the second a year later. The buildings and plant at the top left and bottom left appear to have been removed in this year's image of Arak, while there has been new building in the centre of the plant.

Arak: October 2010 [Source]
Arak: October 2011 [Source]

ISIS (the Institute for Science and International Security) is a non-profit, non-partisan institution dedicated to informing the public about science and policy issues affecting international security. On its NuclearIran website, it says this:
Iran’s heavy water production plant was commissioned in August 2006.  The existence of this facility was first revealed publicly by the Iranian opposition group, National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in August 2002.  ISIS then located the site in commercial satellite imagery after a wide-area search.  By United Nations Security Council resolution 1737 (2006), Iran was to suspend all work on heavy water related projects.  However, Iran has not halted this work and maintains that it has no legal obligation to do so under its safeguards agreement. Iranian officials speaking at a March 5-6, 2005 conference in Tehran said that the plant was in its first stage of operation.  As of 2010, imagery of the heavy water production plant analyzed by the IAEA indicates that it is operating. 

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