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The site is located near Khomeyni Shahr, 28 kilometers North West of Isfahan City Center, Iran.

Construction began circa 2005 with the excavation of two tunnels inside the mountains, 400 meters below crest level.

Possible Missile Base in Contruction at Khomeyni Shahr
Above: 0.5m resolution "Spot" Image of the construction site © 2021 Capella Space. All Rights Reserved

It is only by 2008-2009 that ventilation shafts appeared indicating that the site needs fresh air circulation beyond the temporary ventilation during the underground excavation works.

Analyzing the initial spoils it can be roughly estimated that a volume of 500,000 cubic meters was excavated for the two tunnels and underground facilities. It is not clear if those tunnels are interconnected and sharing one common underground facility.

By 2011, the area was further developed, three concrete batch plants started to operate on-site and two security perimeters added.

Between 2011 and 2019, no major excavation could be reported, however, arched formwork and concrete production were still in progress probably indicating that construction work took place underground.

Around August 2019, at each tunnel entrance, 10 meters high platforms with access ramps were built with fill and subbase. By the end of 2019, those elevated platforms were reinforced with rebars and concrete in their centroid points indicating the requirement to sustain high forces and loads.

Similar platforms at tunnel entrance or pads were revealed by The Intel Lab at Masjed Soleyman Airbase on January 16th, 2021. The same concept can be found at Sangnam-ni Missile Base in North Korea which is likely one of many contributions to the Iranian Ballistic Missile Program.

As for today, persistent intelligence using Very High-Resolution 0.5m SAR imagery from Capella Space indicates that works inside the mountains are still ongoing and the site is not operational yet.

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It all began with a heads-up from a Twitter OSINT follower: "Hey you should look here 32.767749°, 50.887684° tunnel related to Iran Nukes."

At first glance, the site is in a remote location 130km from Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP), 75km from Esfahan Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF), and 190km from Arak Heavy Water Reactor Facility (IR-40).

Initial Imagery analysis shows a well-secured compound of an industrial type, surrounded by high walls and fences as well as a perimeter berm. The site has effluent ponds and its own electric substation to convert high voltage to medium voltage indicating that this is a big energy consumer.

The tunnel portal is 140 meters long with an 80 meter reinforced concrete access sleeve, a large volume of excavation spoils, its azimuth is straight into the mountain. The staging area is not full of temporary prefab structures but real buildings. No ventilation shaft could be spotted in the mountain nor any exit.

Construction is antecedent to 2009 and still very active indicating that either the project has stalled, or it is of a subsequent size.

Some analysts would wrap the analysis summing it up with a brief punchy statement: "Satellite imagery shows unreported tunnel construction activity in a secured compound near Esfahan, Iran", and there is nothing wrong with that statement, it is based on visual facts on the ground, it is accurate and if the task was to depict what is seen then it is sufficient.

It is the occasion to remind that Imagery Intelligence (IMINT) although being extremely advanced and appealing is only one discipline inside the traditional Intelligence Cycle and is not an Intel Swiss Knife for an assessment. It sounds trivial but judging by the number of inaccurate reports and so-called Intelligence Analysis in the media and social media it isn't.

Back to our site near Esfahan.

One of The Intel Lab arrows in its quiver is the systematic use of Civil Engineering Intelligence (CIVINT) in adjunction to IMINT. CIVINT tells you the story of how it was made, what was the purpose, which materials were used, and what were the constraints.

Further investigation of imageries of the site and around shows trenches and pipe laying, adequate to such an industrial size facility. The pipes are steel pipes, 12-meter-long standard segments, approximate outside diameter 1600 to 1800 mm.

Two 85m x 50m structures inside the complex show piping in and out and seem to be half-buried in the ground, the piping seems to lead to the central building with rectangular structures or tanks. This compound is a big water consumer it appears.

Why would a water station be so highly secured including a tunnel to the mountain with no exit around? One would say it is a highly strategic site because wherever there is a tunnel there is a strategic asset. Is it Nuclear related? Is it cooling the rods of a secret nuclear reactor? Are the ponds treating radioactive effluents?

The answer is 10 km from this site, on the bank of the Zayanderood river.

Recent satellite imageries do not show an apparent connection between those two sites unless you dig in the past. Tthen you would see a TBM (Tunnel Boring Machine) making its way up to our first site. A 10-kilometer tunnel, 4.5 wide tunnel accommodating two parallel water pipelines with intermediate underground pumping stations.

So no Uranium, no missiles, no nukes, and no bling-bling, just tap water, the most strategic asset on Planet Earth.

So was that analysis a complete waste of time? All the Civil Engineering mumbo jumbo just a marketing tool?

Au contraire!

In a very simplistic manner, Civil Engineering combined with IMINT teaches how to differentiate a military tunnel from a civilian tunnel, not to see evil everywhere for some people.

In this case, it teaches the complexity of the Golab Water Transfer Tunnel, designing it and building it, the level of knowledge needed to hand it over to a government. Civil Engineering on the infrastructure's aspect teaches about the qualitative and quantitative side of national resources invested in that kind of project. Civil Engineering also contributes to grasp the mismanagement and the priorities in national resources and critical infrastructures.

The goal of the Golab Water Transfer Tunnel is to supply a population of 5.5 million people who lack drinking water in Esfahan province in 2021. That is a priceless piece of intelligence to integrate into a global assessment.

In an era of fake news, inaccurate reports, lack of knowledge, the race for more followers, and exposure it is essential to stick to factual evidence, science, and responsible conduct.

No, not all tunnels in Iran are directly related to its nuclear program.

Itay Bar-Lev is Managing Director and Chief Analyst at The Intel Lab

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Satellite Imagery Analysis over the last 3 months shows a significant development at Martyr Qasem Soleimani Uranium Mining and Industrial Complex (Saghand Uranium Mine and Yellowcake Production Plant).

A Heap Leach Uranium Recovery Plant is now operational south of the existing underground. Satellite Imageries clearly show a 130m x 80m Heap with an impervious plastic liner and four ponds part of the Yellowcake production process. Heap leaching is a widely used extraction method for low-grade minerals, including copper, gold, silver, and uranium.

Saghand Uranium Deposit has 3,000-5,000 tons of uranium oxide reserves with a U-235 content estimated as between 0.08% and 1.0% for an annual production capacity of 50 tons of uranium ore.

Saghand Yellowcake Production Plant - March 22nd 2021 - Sentinel-2 - European Space Agency - ESA

Saghand Yellowcake Production Plant - March 22nd 2021 - Sentinel-2 - European Space Agency - ESA

Saghand Yellowcake Production Plant - March 22nd 2021 - Sentinel-2 - European Space Agency - ESA

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