A New Blast at an Iranian Research Facility

The situation in Iran just keeps getting weirder. An explosion apparently rocked Esfahan, the town hosting one of the Middle Eastern nation's nuclear research facilities on Nov. 28, according to Australian and Israeli news outlets. This explosion comes only a couple of weeks after a massive explosion at a missile research facility killed the founder of Iran's missile programs -- many claimed that Western and Israeli intelligence agencies were behind that blast.

The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a DC based think tank, just released these pictures showing what may be Iranian efforts to clean up what might be the blast site at a salt mine from the 1980s that is now used for storage that sits next to the Esfahan nuclear research facility. Keep in mind that the nuclear facility has its own network of tunnels, they could easily be linked to the mine.

Press reports indicate that this latest blast may too be the work of saboteurs, per ISIS:

An explosion reportedly occurred on Monday, November 28, 2011 somewhere in or near the city of Esfahan in Iran. The Times reported that the blast occurred at the Esfahan nuclear site and that it has seen satellite imagery that showed “billowing smoke and destruction.” The Times also cites “Israeli intelligence officials” as claiming that the blast was “no accident.” ISIS has acquired DigitalGlobe satellite imagery of the Esfahan nuclear site taken on December 3, 2011 and December 5, 2011. There does not appear to be any visible evidence of an explosion, such as building damage or debris, on the grounds of the known nuclear facilities or at the tunnel facility directly north of the Uranium Conversion Facility and Zirconium Production Plant at the Esfahan site.

It is still unclear where the reported blast occurred in Esfahan and whether it occurred anywhere near the nuclear facility. ISIS has identified a facility near the Esfahan nuclear site that underwent a significant transformation recently.

Click through the jump for before and after pictures of the razed facility.

This satellite photo from August shows the buildings at the old mine:

This image from Dec. 5, a week after the reported blast, shows that the buildings are gone:

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