GoogleEarth image, taken on 25 March 2005, Image of potential site of second Iranian enrichment center near Qom, blinked with ISIS image of the same site taken on 26 September 2009.

As usual, ISIS has produced a wonderful set of image analyses of the possible second enrichment facility near Qom, Iran. ( Here is their second image analysis; both by Paul Brannan.) The image ISIS has indicated as being of the most likely location for the facility is shown above in a blink comparison with a 2005 GoogleEarth image. The blink comparison clearly shows a new pile of dirt to the left of the existing pile (and where did that come from?) What is not clear is the extent of the new pile of dirt. There appears to be two possibilities: 1) a pie shaped distribution of dirt and 2) a ridge of dirt at the extreme radius of the “pie.” Because the surface of the pie wedge has seen considerable traffic, it is very hard to differentiate between these two possibilities (at least for me). It is interesting to try to see if either possibility is consistent with the stated capacity of 3,000 centrifuges.

Using the floor area per centrifuge as determined from the Natanz facility of 1.4 square meters per centrifuge (which includes an average floor area for all the other associated apparatus like autoclaves and refrigerating units for UF6 extraction) and a height of 4 meters to allow centrifuges to be lifted out of their positions, I get a total volume for the facility of 17,290 cubic meters. Not that it matters right now, but if we assume the width of each tunnel section is 10 meters, then this corresponds to a total length of 350 meters. (This will be discussed further in my next post on estimating how long building such a facility might have taken and, hence, when it must have been started.) If this dirt is distributed over the pie wedge, then it should have an average height of 0.04 meters (assuming an expansion factor of 1.4). That does not seem consistent with the end of the “pie,” which appears considerably higher. If, however, the same volume of dirt is piled in a loose berm of dirt with the measured length of 115 meters, it should have a height of about 8 meters. That seems consistent with the stated size of the facility.

By popular demand, here are the two images without the blinking:
GoogleEarth Image

ISIS Image

But I like the blink comparison so that’s why its still up at the top.