Iran Laying Asphalt at the Suspect Parchin Site
May 22, 2013Download PDF
Iran continues to conduct activities at the suspect Parchin site that will further complicate the verification work of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). According to the IAEA’s report, “Iran has conducted further spreading, levelling and compacting of material over most of the site, a significant proportion of which it has also asphalted.”
Figure 1, an April 15, 2013 commercial satellite image from Digital Globe, appears to confirm these paving and asphalting activities. Unlike in previous imagery where the grounds of the site appeared as regular gravel or sand, the latest image shows several different types of surfaces of varying texture and color.
The Parchin site is the location of a test chamber that is suspected of being used for containing high explosives tests related to nuclear weapons development. Iran began altering the buildings at this site and the site itself during the spring of 2012, shortly after the IAEA requested access to this site. The IAEA in this latest safeguards report states that “satellite imagery available to the Agency [IAEA] for the period from February 2005 to January 2012 shows virtually no activity at or near the building housing the containment vessel (chamber building). Since the Agency’s first request for access to this location, however, satellite imagery shows that extensive activities and resultant changes have taken place at this location.”
Iran on multiple occasions has refused the IAEA’s legitimate requests for access to this site. Iran may now be attempting to further complicate the taking of environmental samples at the site. By doing so, Iran may seek to further erode the IAEA’s ability to determine whether nuclear weapons development work happened at this site, as IAEA evidence supports.
Licensing for the use of the Digital Globe imagery is available here
Figure 1. Digital Globe imagery from April 15, 2013 showing what appear to be the initial phases of paving and asphalting activities on the grounds of the Parchin site. Differences can be noted in the indicated surface appearances from Figure 2’s January 2013 image, suggesting different stages of construction.
Figure 2. Imagery from January 17, 2013 showing no signs of paving or asphalting. The grounds of the site appear to consist of compacted gravel compared to asphalting seen in figure 1.