According to Bloomberg News, Iran is racing to destroy any evidence at the Parchin Military Base nuclear testing facilities. Parchin is believed to be where the Iranians conducted hydrodynamic experiments which to perfect the detonation of nuclear warheads.
While Hydrodynamic experiments use uranium and plutonium they use non-fissile versions of the elements such as uranium-238 and plutonium-242 (atomic weapons use uranium-235 or plutonium 239). These types of experiments, test assemblies that mock the conditions of an actual nuclear weapon detonated using high explosives. In hydrodynamic testing, the non-fissile isotopes, are subjected to enough pressure and shock that they start to behave like liquids (that’s where the hydro comes from). Radiographs (x-ray photographs) and similar tools are used to obtain information on the resulting implosion; computer calculations based on these test results are used to predict how a nuclear weapon would perform.
The issue of inspections at Parchin raised congressional two weeks ago Sen. James Risch (R-ID) revealed during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that U.S. negotiators had collapsed on investigating that site and that the Iranians would be allowed to collect their own samples instead of the IAEA. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) followed up with “chain of custody means nothing if at the very beginning what you’re given is chosen and derived by the perpetrator.” Soon after, the Associated Press confirmed Sen. Risch’s revelation.
On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported the Iranians were trying to hide the evidence in Parchin:
The U.S. intelligence community has informed Congress of evidence that Iran was sanitizing its suspected nuclear military site at Parchin, in broad daylight, days after agreeing to a nuclear deal with world powers.
For senior lawmakers in both parties, the evidence calls into question Iran’s intention to fully account for the possible military dimensions of its current and past nuclear development. The International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran have a side agreement meant to resolve past suspicions about the Parchin site, and lawmakers’ concerns about it has already become a flashpoint because they do not have access to its text.
Intelligence officials and lawmakers who have seen the new evidence, which is still classified, told us that satellite imagery picked up by U.S. government assets in mid- and late July showed that Iran had moved bulldozers and other heavy machinery to the Parchin site and that the U.S. intelligence community concluded with high confidence that the Iranian government was working to clean up the site ahead of planned inspections by the IAEA.
Nuclear watchdog, “The Institute for Science and International Security” (ISIS) agrees:
ISIS acquired and analyzed commercial satellite imagery of the Parchin site in Iran taken before and after the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and the P5+1. Imagery from July 26, 2015 (above) shows new signs of activity that are absent from imagery taken before the JCPOA. New activity is taking place on the roof of the two southern buildings (left of picture above). Several possible oil spills are visible in front of the northern building and the central building (suspected of housing high explosive experiments related to the development of nuclear weapons).
Additionally, two vehicles are visible at the site. One is either a large vehicle or a small truck. The other vehicle presents signatures that are consistent with some sort of construction vehicle, such as a bulldozer or a steamroller. One of the two crates or containers visible in previous imagery has been moved, and possibly repositioned adjacent to the large central building at the site.
The ISIS report concludes with:
This renewed activity occurring after the signing of the JCPOA raises obvious concerns that Iran is conducting further sanitization efforts to defeat IAEA verification. Because the JCPOA is unlikely to succeed in its closure of the possible military dimensions investigation if the IAEA does not get access to Parchin, Iran is under increasing pressure to allow this access. Although it is difficult to fathom Iran’s motivations for its recent actions at Parchin, this renewed activity may be a last ditch effort to try to ensure that no incriminating evidence will be found.
Revelations like the cleanup at Parchin is one of the reasons people suspect the White House is being disingenuous about the P5+1 deal. On one hand the administration is telling Congress that Iran can be trusted to turn over evidence from Parchin, while the intelligence community is offering proof that Iran is destroying evidence.