Iranian nuclear facility
Iranian nuclear facility Reuters

New satellite photographs published by a Washington think tank suggest that Iran has been cleansing a military site south of Tehran suspected of being used for nuclear-weapons work.

The Institute for Science and International Security said in an online posting that the imagery showed unidentified items lined up outside the chamber, possibly related to cleaning, and what appeared to be a stream of water from or near the chamber.

The satellite imagery was reportedly taken on April 9, after inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency had made repeated requests for permission to visit the chamber at the site, known as Parchin, in a desert region about 20 miles southeast of Tehran.

Iranian officials have rejected the requests.

International Atomic Energy Agency officials are scheduled to meet next week in Vienna with Iranian diplomats to try to develop a plan to address the threat of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

On May 23, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany, are meeting in Baghdad with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, to discuss the issue.

Director-general of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, has raised concerns that Tehran might be seeking to cover up its past work at Parchin and cited continuing "activities" at the site, which Vienna-based diplomats said was a reference to cleansing activities at the facility.

The Washington think tank refrained from drawing definitive conclusions from the imagery, but its report raised the possibility that a cleanup had been attempted.

“Iran should immediately allow I.A.E.A. inspectors into the Parchin site and allow access to this specific building,” the report said. “It should also explain the purpose of the activities seen at the building in this recent satellite image.”

Iranian officials did not comment on the report, however Iranian officials have claimed that previous reports that suggested that cleanup attempts were fabrications, arguing that evidence of nuclear research cannot be easily washed away.