IRAN EVACUATES AREA SURROUNDING NUKE PLANT
Iranian officials have instructed residents of Isfahan to leave the city, renewing concerns that a nearbyÂ nuclear siteÂ could be leaking radioactive material.
An edict issued Wednesday by Iranian authorities orders Isfahanâ€™s one-and-a-half million people to leave the city â€śbecause pollution has now reached emergency levels,â€ť the BBCÂ reported.
However, outside observers suspect that the evacuation order may corroborate previousÂ reportsÂ indicating that a uranium enrichment facility near Isfahan had been leaking radioactive material.
Tehran went to great lengths in December to deny these reports,Â tellingstate-run media outlets that â€śthe rumors about leaking and contamination at Isfahanâ€™s [Uranium Conversion Facility] are not true at all.â€ť
November reportsÂ indicatedÂ that a radioactive leak might have poisoned several workers at the nuclear plant, which converts highly toxic yellowcake uranium into material that could be used in the core of a nuclear weapon.
The head of Iranâ€™s emergency services agencyÂ saidÂ at the time that residents have no reason to worry about possible contamination resulting from a possible leak.
Stories about the potential leak soon disappeared from state-run news websites, Trend reported in late November.
Iranian officials denied that a leak has occurred and blamed Western media outlets for creating â€śtumultâ€ť in the region.
Wednesdayâ€™s evacuation order is now fueling concerns that Iranian officials are trying to hide something, including further fallout from a possible radioactive leak.
â€śPollution in Isfahan is a problem but in the past, Iranian authorities respond by closing schools and the government to keep people at home and let the pollution dissipate, not by evacuating people,â€ť said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser on Iran and Iraq who hasÂ writtenÂ about Isfahanâ€™s battle against pollution.
â€śMass evacuations suggest a far more serious problem,â€ť Rubin explained.Â â€śThere are two possibilities here: There is a radiation leak and the regime is lying or there is really bad pollution and no one believes the regimeâ€™s explanations.â€ť