An edict was issued on Wednesday by Iranian authorities ordering Isfahan’s 1.5 million residents to leave the city because pollution in the area “has reached emergency levels.”

Skeptical of Iran’s explanation for the evacuation, some believe it to have been prompted by more than just your average pollution. (h/t Uncle Samuel)

[O]utside observers suspect that the evacuation order may corroborate previous reports indicating that a uranium enrichment facility near Isfahan had been leaking radioactive material.

Tehran went to great lengths in December to deny these reports, telling state-run media outlets that “the rumors about leaking and contamination at Isfahan’s [Uranium Conversion Facility] are not true at all.”

November reports indicated 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 Iran’s emergency services agency said 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.

In this instance, the full scale evacuation of a city points to the possibility of far more serious conditions on the ground than the Iranian government is letting on.

“Pollution 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,” said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser on Iran and Iraq who has written about Isfahan’s battle against pollution.

“Mass evacuations suggest a far more serious problem,” Rubin explained. “There 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 regime’s explanations.”

Rubin also pointed out that Iranian officials have a history of lying to both Western officials and their own citizens.

It remains unclear whether the technology has been properly inspected for safety because Iran has denied Western officials access to many of its nuclear sites.

In addition to the possibility of poor safety conditions, the nuclear site also sits on an active fault line.

“Given that Iran is on an earthquake zone and has lost tens of thousands of people with regularity suggests that a devastating nuclear accident is only a matter of time,” said Rubin.

 
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