Israeli intelligence officials have confirmed reports of a major explosion at an Iranian nuclear facility in Fordo, according to a report Monday in The Times of London.
The British daily cited officials in Tel Aviv who said the blast at Iran’s second-largest nuclear site occurred last week.
Iranian officials denied the reports, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported. The U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency issued a statement corroborating the Iranian denials, saying they have no data supporting the report.
According to the report, authored by former Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Reza Kahlili, the explosion “destroyed much of the installation and trapped about 240 personnel deep underground.”
Kahlili, who says he turned CIA agent in the 1980s and 90s, cited a “source in the security forces protecting Fordow” as saying that the blast occurred last Monday at Fordow, which is located deep inside a mountain to protect it from aerial attack.
“The 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,” the report added.
On Tuesday, it was further reported that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have set up a 15-kilometer security cordon around the site.
Iran is not believed to have evacuated the area surrounding the Fordo plant, according to the same Israeli sources, who said that an investigation into the blast was ongoing, The Jerusalem Post reported.
“We are still in the preliminary stages of understanding what happened and how significant it is,” one Israeli official told the London Times. He did not know if the explosion was “sabotage or accident” and refused to comment on reports that Israeli aircraft were seen near Fordo at the time of the blast.
The chairman of the Iranian parliament’s Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, referred to rumors of the blast as “Western-made propaganda” and said they were “baseless lies” meant to impact ongoing talks on Iran’s nuclear program, reported IRNA.