Tehran did its utmost to conceal the mystery blast which last week struck the heavy water reactor under construction at Arak in western Iran. It is revealed here for the first time by debkafile’s intelligence and Iranian sources. The explosion, whether accidental or not, will delay for a second time the reactor’s first test with real fuel. Tehran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency in August of a previous holdup.
The cause of the blast and the extent of the damage it caused have not yet been established. According to the partial information initially reaching our sources, it occurred inside the reactor building when preparations were underway for a test scheduled for this month with artificial fuel and light water. The site of the explosion may have been the large coolant containers and the pressure gauges attached to the reactor’s core.
Iranian Atomic Council experts and intelligence agents are testing four possible causes of the explosion:
2. A virus planted in the computers that control the systems administering the test.
3. An error in engineering calculations in the design of the coolant containers which underestimated their strength for standing up to the required level of pressure.
4. The deliberate sale to Iran of inferior steel materials that were not strong enough to withstand such pressure.
Last August, Iran informed the nuclear watchdog that the test with real fuel would be the final one before the reactor entered its running-in stage. The damage caused by the explosion will have postponed that stage indefinitely.
The Arak reactor, known as IR-40 and designed for a capacity of 40 megawatt, is the cause of deep concern in Israel because it is capable of producing plutonium for use in nuclear bombs as an alternative to enriched uranium.