Exiled Iranian opposition group claims Iran is contracting new nuclear site

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, an exiled opposition group, said on Thursday that it obtained information related to a secret underground nuclear site that is currently being constructed in Iran.

The NCRI said that members of its affiliated People's Mujahideen Organisation of Iran obtained reliable information about the new and completely secret site meant for the nuclear project. A spokesman for the group said he could not say what type of nuclear work would be conducted there, Reuters reports.

"The site consists of four tunnels and has been constructed by a group of engineering and construction companies associated with the engineering arms of the Ministry of Defence and the IRGC (Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards force)," the NCRI said, according to Reuters. "Two of the tunnels are about 550 meters in length, and they have a total of six giant halls."

In 2002, the NCRI exposed a uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy water facility in Arak. Analysts said the organization has a mixed track record and a political agenda. In 2010, the NCRI said it had evidence of another new nuclear facility. The U.S. said it knew about the site for years and there was no reason to suspect it was nuclear.

The new allegation resulted in a cautious international response.

"I have heard nothing," an International Atomic Energy Agency diplomat, said, according to Reuters. "My first suspicion is that it is like the 2010 revelation - a tunnel facility the Iranians are keeping quiet, but no known link to the nuclear program."

Iran claims its nuclear program is peaceful and it rejects U.S. and Israeli accusations that it is attempting to gain the capacity to make nuclear weapons. A lack of openness with the IAEA and a refusal to curb sensitive nuclear activity, however, resulted in Western sanctions and the threat of pre-emptive military strikes from Israel.

In 2009, Iran said it planned to build 10 more uranium enrichment sites on top of its underground Fordow and Natanz plants, Reuters reports.

"(The NCRI report) deserves close attention," Mark Hibbs, a proliferation expert with the Carnegie Endowment think tank, said, according to Reuters. "It has been widely assumed that there is likely some Iranian nuclear infrastructure which is secret, undeclared, and which may be underground."