In the last issue of DEBKA-Net-Weekly (No. 459 from August 27: "Israel Erred in Assuming its Inaction on Bushehr Would Buy US Backing Against the Palestinians"), we reported that some of the hazards presented by Iran's active reactor in Bushehr should be obvious even to the layman and require no special expertise beyond common sense.
(Since it is immune to attack, we wrote: Iranians can freely and safely transfer to the Bushehr reactor compound as many of the banned elements of their military program as they wish – and may have already done so – or even a complete arsenal of bombs. These forbidden facilities will not be accessible to Russian and IAEA inspectors because they are concerned only with keeping the Iranians from misusing the spent fuel rods and will not go around the subsidiary installations surrounding the central core of the reactor.)
Now, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's Iranian and intelligence sources disclose that Tehran did not waste a minute. Sunday, August 22, the day after the reactor's formal inauguration, Iran's Supreme National Security Council was already in deep and comprehensive discussion on how the compound, huge Russian-built storage areas and immediate environs – now loaded with fuel and therefore safe from external air and rocket attack – can best serve as a hideaway for the most secret nuclear projects and weapons materials.
Vast Russian depots converted as secret facilities
Their six-hour session ended with an application to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, to urgently approve the relocation of these labs and materials to the reactor compound and the surrounding area. He signed the directive, our sources report, Thursday, August 26. It is inclusive enough for the lands surrounding the nuclear plant to be rezoned for use as a huge military facility for the following purposes:
1. The most sensitive nuclear laboratories will be moved from North Tehran into some of the huge depots the Russians built in 15 years of working on the reactor to house their heavy technical equipment
2. Advanced rockets of varying types and ranges, weapons materials and replacement parts for military systems Iran wishes to keep under wraps will repose in other of these depots.
3. Some depots will be converted into laboratories for developing Iranian weapons systems.
Hangars for secret new missiles
Our Iranian sources report that this week large groups of Iranian laborers, previously employed in the final stages of the reactor's construction and possessing the highest security clearance, had already been put to work on renovating the two largest depots adjoining to the reactor. The Russian engineers and scientists who had built the plant were asked to finish clearing the depots of their apparatus without delay. Sunday, Aug. 29, they were informed that after their stuff had been cleared out, the depot area was to be fenced off and made out of bounds to them.
This notification was quickly followed by the erection of a temporary fence around the Bushehr facility and the stationing of Revolutionary Guards special units around the perimeter.
All these procedures are still in progress. It is not known how long the Iranians will take to finish the conversion of the Russian depots and install high security features around the compound. Only then will the Iranians start moving over their secret materials, equipment and weaponry.
But they are moving fast. DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources report that in mid-week, the Supreme National Security Council sent orders to missile bases in the oil-rich Khuzistan region in southern Iran, where Iran keeps its newest surface-to-surface missiles, to start preparing to pack and transfer the missiles to the nuclear reactor compound in Bushehr where the Russian depots will be converted to huge hangars.