VIENNA (AP) — Satellite imagery of an Iranian site possibly used for work on a nuclear weapon shows crates, trucks and construction that may be linked to a renewed attempt to clean up before an inspection by the U.N.'s nuclear monitor, a nonproliferation institute said Thursday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency — the U.N. watchdog — has repeatedly cited previous evidence of possible attempts to sanitize the Parchin site. But the report by the Institute for Science and International Security is significant because the IAEA plans to visit the site soon as part of the deal between Iran and six world powers focused on limiting Iran's nuclear programs in exchange for the removal of economic sanctions.
The institute cited commercial satellite images in an email to The Associated Press, saying they show "renewed activity" at the site. It said that "could be related to refurbishment or cleanup prior to any IAEA inspection or the taking of environmental samples."
It said the images show what appear to be a bulldozer or a steamroller, containers that have been repositioned and two new structures "of unknown purpose" that appeared between late May and early July.
"This renewed activity ... raises obvious concerns that Iran is conducting further sanitization efforts to defeat IAEA verification," said the Washington-based think tank, which is often consulted by the U.S. government.
In Tehran, the foreign ministry called the report "baseless (and) ridiculous," saying any construction at the site is linked to road repairs — an assertion challenged by White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
"For more than a decade, the Iranians had gone to great lengths to try to cover it up," he said of the alleged weapons work at Parchin. "We're not particularly concerned that, over the course of the next couple of weeks, that they're going to succeed in covering up something that they haven't been able to cover up over the last decade."
Access to Parchin would follow years of refusal by Iran, which denies any interest in — or work on — nuclear arms. Based on U.S., Israeli and other intelligence and its own research, the IAEA suspects that the Islamic Republic may have experimented with high-explosive detonators for nuclear arms at that military facility south of Tehran, and other weapons-related work elsewhere.
Associated Press writers Connie Cass in Washington and Nasser Karimi in Tehran contributed.