By Yaakov Lappin, Jerusalem Post
A report claiming that a mysterious blast rocked the Fordo uranium enrichment facility in Iran last week made headlines in Israel on Sunday, but remained unverified.
An Iranian official on Sunday night denied the reports, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
The deputy head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Seyyed Shamseddin Barbroudi was quoted by the IRNA as dismissing the report.
According to the report, penned by former Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Reza Kahlili, for the WND.com website, the explosion â€œdestroyed much of the installation and trapped about 240 personnel deep underground.â€
Kahlili, who says he turned CIA agent in the 1980s and 90s, cited a â€œsource in the security forces protecting Fordoâ€ as saying that the blast occurred last Monday at Fordow, which is located deep inside a mountain to protect it from aerial attack.
â€œThe blast shook facilities within a radius of three miles. Security forces have enforced a no-traffic radius of 15 miles, and the Tehran- Qom highway was shut down for several hours after the blast,â€ the report added.
The existence of the Fordo enrichment plant was kept secret by Iran, until it was discovered by Western intelligence in 2009, and the question of how long it had been in operation remains unanswered.
Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Project at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, noted on Sunday that Iran is enriching uranium to 20 percent at Fordo, â€œand it raises concerns because it is buried deep in a mountain.â€
She added, â€œThere have been many references to the fact that Israel doesnâ€™t have strong enough bombs to penetrate it from the air, but the US MOP [massive ordnance penetrator] is reported to be able to penetrate it.â€
Landau added that reports surfaced six months ago saying that the MOP is operational.
The shutting down of Fordo is one of the three demands made on Iran by the P5+1 nations during talks with the Islamic Republic.
According to a 2011 IAEA report, Iran is testing detonators for nuclear blasts at its secret base in Parchin, and has refused to allow UN inspectors access to the site.
Jpost.com staff contributed to this report.