Nuclear Sites

7th of Tir Industries (Seventh of Tir, Hafte Tir or Haftom e Tir Industries)

Seventh of Tir Industries, located near Esfahan, is under the Defense Industries Organization and a subsidiary of the Ammunition and Metallurgy Industries Group (AMIG).  It is mainly involved in manufacturing rockets and missiles.  United Nations Security Council Resolution 1737 (2006) states that 7th of Tir is “widely recognized as being directly involved in the nuclear program.”

The company takes its name from an important date on the Iranian calendar – the 7th of Tir – on which a bomb exploded at the headquarters of Iran’s Islamic Republic Party on June 28, 1981, killing more than seventy officials.  A number of Iranian buildings or places now bear the name.

Prior to the 2003 suspension of Iran’s sensitive nuclear programs, 7th of Tir had responsibility for manufacturing several critical P1 centrifuge components under a contract with the centrifuge program.  This facility had some of the most sophisticated machining capabilities in Iran, achieved through overseas procurements of sophisticated machine tools and technology.

Whether it continues to make centrifuge components is uncertain, based on public information and reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  Iran is not required under its comprehensive safeguards agreement to declare to the IAEA where it makes centrifuge components and thus there is little official information about centrifuge manufacturing in Iran.  However, 7th of Tir’s capabilities would have been a powerful motivation for the centrifuge program to continue contracting with this defense company to make sensitive centrifuge components.  It may therefore be making centrifuge components today.

Public information about the centrifuge-related activities at 7th of Tir relates to the period prior to Iran’s suspension of centrifuge activity in 2003.  Iran suspended its centrifuge manufacturing efforts for a time between late 2003 (when it also signed but did not ratify the Additional Protocol) and early February 2006, when it notified the IAEA that both its voluntary adherence to the Additional Protocol and its suspension of enrichment activity was over.  As part of these agreements, Iran revealed details about centrifuge manufacturing to the IAEA.

Under contract with the centrifuge program, DIO specialists at 7th or Tir made over twenty critical rotating components of the P1 centrifuge rotor.  According to Vienna-based diplomats present at technical briefings by IAEA officials, this facility was originally contracted in about 2001 to make 10,000 sets of these centrifuge components.

The 7th of Tir Steel Complex appears in satellite imagery as a large, gated and guarded site for missile production.  Reports indicate that centrifuge components were manufactured in several unidentified facilities within the 7th of Tir site, including a forgings workshop, a flow forming workshop, a machine shop, and a quality control laboratory.  The components were made in these facilities on high precision U.S. and European machine tools and measuring equipment.

Prior to the 2003 suspension of centrifuge manufacturing, 7th or Tir had not finished making all the components it had agreed to produce.  During the suspension, to prevent IAEA monitoring of what is a sensitive military site, Iran moved key centrifuge manufacturing equipment and components to Natanz and other sites.  It is unknown if after the end of the suspension, these items were returned to 7th or Tir, or if production was resumed on these components there. However, it is a reasonable assumption that after the suspension ended, it finished making the rest of them.

This site manufactured one of the IR-1 centrifuge’s most sensitive parts, its bellows—a thin-walled cylindrical part—made from grade 300 or 350 maraging steel. Each IR-1 centrifuge requires three bellows.  Iran illicitly purchased 67 tonnes of this super strong steel in the United Kingdom in the 1990s.  The material was in the shape of bar (about 100 millimeter diameter).  Normally, Iran would have wanted tubes, which can then be flow formed into thin-walled bellows. Maraging steel is a sensitive commodity, whose purchase is controlled by suppliers, which complicates Iran’s ability to buy it.  Iran may have found it easier to obtain if it asked for rods.  But the rod shape complicates the production of bellows.  Iranian technicians reportedly had to first use a hot lance to pierce the rod and then machine out the center into a tube.  This tube is then thinned to a wall thickness of only one millimeter on a specialized, precision flow-forming machine.  7th of Tir used a flow forming machine to do the thinning that it had obtained many years ago from the now defunct German firm Leifeld.  In total, 7th of Tir had four Leifeld flow forming machines, although only one was used to make bellows. 

Because this process of making bellows from bar is very wasteful, 67 tonnes of maraging steel is estimated as sufficient for approximately 36,000- 45,000 bellows.  Since each IR-1 centrifuge requires three bellows, Iran could make enough for some 12,000-15,000 centrifuges from this one order of maraging steel. 

Iran may have obtained additional maraging steel in the last several years.  Alternatively, it may have learned to recycle some of the large quantities of maraging steel scrap generated while making bellows. Most analysts do not believe Iran can make 300 or 350 grade maraging steel.

The U.S. Treasury Department added 7th of Tir Industries to the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list in 2008.  Britain, Japan, and the European Union have all listed 7th of Tir as a company of proliferation concern.

For more information check: Related Reports

Abzar Boresh Kaveh Co. aka Kaveh Cutting Tools

Abzar Boresh Kaveh Co, which appears to be a defense-related company, is also known as Kaveh Cutting Tools and Khorason Metallurgy Industry.1  It shares an address with Amin Industrial Group.2  Prior to Iran’s suspension of its centrifuge program in 2003, Kaveh Cutting Tools Co manufactured scoops, molecular pumps, and top flanges of centrifuges, all non-rotating components .3  It used high quality machine tools from European and other Western countries to make these centrifuge parts.  Kaveh Cutting Tools also sells products commercially, including drills, taps, cutters, reamers, and compound tools .4 It is not known if this company made centrifuge components after the suspension ended in 2006.

Abzar Boresh Kaveh Co. is named in a United Kingdom government list of Iranian individuals and entities subject to financial sanctions. Both the UK and Annex III of UN Security Council Resolution 1803 (2008) identify the firm as being involved in the production of centrifuge components. In 2009, the company was added to the U.S Treasury’s SDN list, which bans all interaction and transactions with the listed companies.5 

For more information check: Related Reports



1  “Iran: Names Proposed by UK and France for EU Asset Freeze and Travel Bans,” The Telegraph, February 4, 2011.
2 Office of Foreign Asset Control, “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons,” U.S. Treasury, June 29, 2011.
3 David Albright, Paul Brannan, and Jacqueline Shire, “Can Military Strikes Destroy Iran’s Gas Centrifuge Program?  Probably Not” (Washington, DC: Institute for Science and International Security, August 7, 2008).
4 Kaveh Cutting Tools website
5 U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control, “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons,” June 29, 2011.

Anarak nuclear waste disposal

Anarak is a nuclear waste disposal site. Iran told the IAEA in 2003 that Anarak stores waste resulting from experiments separating I-131 from irradiated UO2 targets.1 The IAEA requested that this waste be moved to a facility at Jabr Ibn Hayan Multipurpose Laboratories (JHL), and Iran transferred the waste in January 2004.2,3 Anarak nuclear waste disposal is a subsidiary of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI).4 

Congressional Research Service reporting indicates that there are reserves of uranium ore near Anarak.5

For more information check: Related Reports



1Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” International Atomic Energy Agency, June 19, 2003.
2 Hassan, Hussein D. “CRS Report for Congress: Iranian Nuclear Sites.” (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service), August 9, 2007.
3Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” International Atomic Energy Agency, February 24, 2004.
4Islamic Republic of Iran,” International Atomic Energy Agency.
5 Hassan, Hussein D. “CRS Report for Congress: Iranian Nuclear Sites.” (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service), August 9, 2007.

Arak Complex

Near the city of Arak is Iran’s heavy water production plant and a heavy water reactor, which remains under construction.  Iran originally intended to build a hot cell facility at Arak for the separation of “long-lived radioisotopes,” believed to be a euphemism for plutonium, but in 2004 Iran informed the IAEA that it was abandoning that plan.  Suspicions remain that Iran will reverse this decision and decide to build a plutonium separation plant after the reactor is operational.  It is currently expected to build hot cells to separate shorter-lived radioisotopes, such as cobalt-60 and iridium-192, for civilian applications.

Arak IR-40 Heavy Water Reactor

Iran has stated that it decided to construct a heavy water reactor in the 1980s.  In the 1990’s Iran received significant design assistance for the reactor from Russian entities.  It conducted certain testing activities at the Esfahan nuclear research center in the 1990s. The IR-40 reactor is designed to produce 40 megawatts thermal (MWth) of power and use natural uranium oxide fuel, which is being produced at the Esfahan conversion and fuel fabrication facilities.

The start date of the reactor is difficult to determine.  Officially, Iran has said that the reactor will achieve criticality in early 2014.  However, this date could be delayed because of problems acquiring necessary items overseas or in building the reactor.

If operating optimally, the IR-40 would produce about 9 kilograms of plutonium annually or enough for about two nuclear weapons each year. Before it could use any of the plutonium in a nuclear weapon, however, Iran would first have to separate the plutonium from the irradiated fuel.

Intermittently, Iran has allowed the IAEA access to the IR-40 reactor at Arak.  In recent years, Iran has justified its refusal to grant the Agency full access to the IR-40 reactor by saying that “since the IR-40 was not in a situation to receive nuclear material, no design-inventory-verification was required.” Iran has since softened its position and allowed the IAEA to visit the reactor.

Because Iran has completed the external structure of the IR-40 reactor, commercial satellite images can no longer monitor the progress of the reactor.  The IAEA continues to monitor construction through design inventory verifications.

Arak Hot Cells

Iran has denied that it intends to build a plant to separate plutonium from IR-40 reactor spent fuel.  However, Iran originally declared to the IAEA that there were plans to construct a building at the Arak site with hot cells for the production of long-lived radioisotopes, interpreted to mean plutonium.  Iran stated that they were planning to build hot cells for the production of “short lived” isotopes, and that it intended to construct the additional hot cells to produce “long lived” radioisotopes.  In May 2004, however, Iran revised its declaration for Arak, and eliminated plans to construct any hot cells for long-lived isotopes.

Arak Heavy Water Production Plant at Khondab

The existence of this facility was first revealed publicly by the Iranian opposition group, National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in August 2002.  ISIS then located the site in commercial satellite imagery after a wide-area search and published its findings in December 2002.1 

Iran’s heavy water production plant was commissioned in August 2006.  By United Nations Security Council resolution 1737 (2006), Iran was ordered to suspend all work on heavy water related projects.  However, Iran has not halted this work and maintains that it has no legal obligation to do so.

Iranian officials stated at a March 5-6, 2005 conference in Tehran that the plant was in its first stage of operation.  In 2010, imagery of the heavy water production plant analyzed by the IAEA indicated that it was operating by then.

Under traditional safeguards, heavy water production facilities are not subject to IAEA safeguards or inspection. Though Iran granted IAEA inspectors access on August 17, 2011, they were not permitted to obtain samples of Iran’s heavy water.  The IAEA monitors the status of the facility via satellite imagery.

For more information check: Related Reports



1 David Albright and Corey Hinderstein, “Iran Building Nuclear Fuel Cycle Facilities: International Transparancy Needed,” (Washington, DC: ISIS) December 12, 2002.

Atomic Energy Organization of Iran

Established in 1973 in Tehran, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) was designed to technologically advance and ensure the safety of Iran’s civil nuclear program.  The program originally oversaw Iran’s ambitious civil nuclear power effort under the Shah of Iran, geared towards an energy production target of a total power of 23,000 megawatt-electric (MWe) from commercial nuclear power reactors imported from the West. The AEOI currently manages many aspects of the Iranian nuclear program, including the Tehran Research Reactor, the gas centrifuge facilities, Bushehr nuclear power reactor, and uranium mining, milling, and conversion facilities. 

As the AEOI oversees the production of facilities and communication with the IAEA, the United Nations Security Council has taken action against it for violating IAEA safeguards, including provisions in UN Security Council Resolutions 1737 (2006) and 1747 (2007).1 

Iran states that the organization is divided into the five following categories:

Research and Technology Division: This division plans and guides research projects in the nuclear field, applies nuclear sciences in industry, offers technical services, and oversees the production and distribution of radioisotopes. This division also oversees centrifuge development entities.

Nuclear Power Plant Division: Main responsibilities include all aspects of the construction of nuclear facilities: planning, construction, commissioning, and decommissioning. This division is also responsible for crisis management.2

Nuclear Fuel Production Division:  Within this division, there are six sub-departments including the Jaber Ibn Hayan Research Dept., Exploration and Mining Dept., Beneficiation and Hydrometallurgical Research Center, Nuclear Fuel Research and Production, Waste Management Dept., and Saghand Mining Dept.3  The Nuclear Fuel Production Division also oversees the transfer of materials and the development of peaceful nuclear technologies across the country.4

International Affairs Department: Represents the AEOI at the IAEA and NPT hearings, handling legal and parliamentary affairs. 

Iranian Nuclear Regulatory Division (also known as Engineering and Technical Supervision Department): Supervises safety standards and IAEA safeguards implementation.5

For more information check: Related Reports



1 Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions 1737 (2006) and 1747 (2007) in the Islamic Republic of Iran.  IAEA GOV/2007/58. November 15th, 2007.
2 Dr. M. Ghannadi-Maragheh, “Atomic Energy Organization of Iran,” Remarks for the World Nuclear Association, September 6, 2002.
3 Ibid
4 Ibid
5 Ibid

Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant

The Bushehr Power Plant is a 1000 megawatt-electric (MWe) pressurized water reactor constructed near the town of Bushehr in southeastern Iran. It is Iran’s only operating civil nuclear power reactor. The project was initiated in 1975 through a bilateral agreement with Germany, but work only continued through 1979, when the revolution ousted the Shah and construction stopped. Iran signed a contract with Russia’s Ministry for Atomic Energy in 1995, but the project continued to face technical and financial obstacles. The plant first reached criticality in May 2011, and officially came online in September 2011. Russia supplies the fuel for this reactor.1

The Bushehr reactor has raised safety concerns due to the merging of a German and Russian design, which involves the use of Russian equipment and more than two-decade old German-supplied equipment, some of which has failed after operations began.  The reactor is also close to a major fault line, and the region frequently experiences earthquakes. In April 2013, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the region, but Bushehr operators reported no damage to the plant.2

For more information check: Related Reports



1 “Bushehr 1,” International Atomic Energy Agency Power Reactor Information System, accessed April 29, 2013.
2 Yeganeh Torbati, “Iran Earthquake Kills 37, Shakes Nuclear Power Plant,” The Christian Science Monitor, April 9, 2013.

Darkhovin Nuclear Reactor

Iran announced in August 2008 that it had entered the design phase of planning for this facility, which will reportedly be a 360-megawatt reactor in the area of Darkhovin. Darkhovin is located on the Karun River south of Avhaz.

Plans for the Darkhovin reactor have existed in some form since 1979 when Iran contracted with French company Framatome for two reactors.  Little progress was made before the Iranian revolution in 1979, when the project was abandoned.  In 1992, Iran pursued a contract with China to revisit the project. Qinshan Nuclear Power Company and the Shanghai Nuclear Research and Design Institute agreed to build two 300 MW reactors.  China later suspended the project. 

Iran announced in 2008 that it “entered the design stage” of constructing a 360 MW power reactor at the site.1  According to current Iranian estimates, the Darkhovin plant will become operational in 2016.2  As of 2011, the IAEA reported that construction in scheduled to start in 2015.3  Iran claims it will produce the fuel domestically.4

Other names for this site include: Ahvaz, Darkhouin, Esteghlal, and Karun. 

For more information check: Related Reports



1 “Iran: 2nd Nuclear Power Plant in Design Stage,” The Associated Press, August 24, 2008.
2 “President invites intl. companies to participate in nuclear plant projects,” Tehran Times, January 31, 2008.
3 “Nuclear Power Reactor Details: Darkhovin,” International Atomic Energy Agency, June 14, 2011. 
4 “Iran Reports Receiving Nuclear Fuel From Russia,” The Associated Press, January 29, 2008.

Defense Industries Organization

Iran’s state-owned Defense Industries Organization (DIO) is one of the main subsidiaries of Iran’s Ministry of Defense.  Its primary responsibility is meeting the requirements of the armed forces of Iran, but it also exports products and engineering services.  Through its subsidiaries and contractors, it has played an important role in Iran’s development of its centrifuge manufacturing capabilities.  According to IAEA reports, substantial numbers of IR-1 centrifuge components were manufactured at DIO workshops under contract with the AEOI.  Three such workshops controlled by DIO are Khorasan Metallurgy Industries, 7th of Tir, and Kaveh Cutting Tools, all of which are named in UN Security Council Resolution 1737, Annex A

In April 2004, during a scheduled visit, the IAEA requested access to these sites and was refused.  The IAEA was granted access in late May 2004.1  According to the June 2004 IAEA report, DIO workshops were involved in the procurement of parts from abroad for the IR-2 (then referred to as the P2) centrifuge.  Initially Iran denied to the IAEA that any components had been procured from abroad.  By 2004, Iran “acknowledged that, contrary to these earlier statements, it had imported some magnets relevant to P2 centrifuges from Asian suppliers, and that the composite rotors that had been manufactured in Iran had in fact been fabricated in another workshop situated on a DIO site.”

The U.S. Department of State designated DIO on March 30, 2007 as an entity engaged in activities that have “materially contributed to the development of Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.”

DIO’s main activities involve producing defense equipment like battle tanks and other vehicles, weapons and weapons systems, as well as chemical and mechanical materials.2 

U.N Security Council Resolution 1929 identifies several other workshops as subsidiaries of the DIO.  Entities controlled by DIO include Parchin Chemical Industries, Amin Industrial Group, Kaveh Cutting tools, Shahd Sayvade Shirazi Industries, and Yazd Metallurgy Industries.3

For more information check: Related Reports



1Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” International Atomic Energy Agency, June 1, 2004.
2Defence Industries Organization
3Resolution 1929,” United Nations Security Council, June 9, 2010.

Education Research Institute (ERI)

In 1989, the Iranian Ministry of Defense and Armed Force Logistics established the Defense Industries Education and Research Institute.  Little information is available regarding the role of Iran’s Education Research Institute (ERI) in the nuclear program.  It is cited in the May 2008 IAEA report as a “military-related” institute about which inspectors need to learn more.  The report notes that “The Agency also needs to understand fully the reasons for the involvement of military related institutions in procurement for the nuclear programme.” The Education Research Institute likely coordinates and sets priorities for defense-industrial research within DIO departments. 

The IAEA has not resolved its concerns about the ERI.  The February 2008 IAEA safeguards report mentions allegations concerning ERI along with the Institute for Applied Physics (IAP), Kimia Maadan (KM), and the Physics Research Center (PHRC), all of which are linked to Iran’s alleged military nuclear programs.  The IAEA also pursued clarification about the ERI and other entities because of attempts to procure dual use technologies.  Iran explained that these technologies were obtained to complete studies, and for radiation detection.  The current status of the issue is unresolved, as Iran has not allowed the IAEA to meet with the relevant parties.1

For more information check: Related Reports



1 Peter Crail “Iran’s Outstanding Nuclear Issues at a Glance


The AEOI operates a number of nuclear facilities east of Esfahan, notably including Iran’s uranium conversion facility. The site also houses three small research reactors, constructed with Chinese assistance.1  Annex 1 of UN Resolution 1747 (2007) lists the sites as the Esfahan Nuclear Fuel Research and Production Center and the Esfahan Nuclear Technology Center.
The Esfahan site also houses Iran’s largest missile production facility.  This facility was built with the assistance of North Korea and China.2  Reports have also suggested that Esfahan is suspected of having been the primary location of Iran’s chemical weapons facilities.3 

The following site names are used in describing the multiple nuclear-related facilities near Esfahan:

  • • The 30-kilowatt Miniature Neutron Source Reactor for the production of short lived radioisotopes (Chinese-supplied) light water research reactor. Iran uses this reactor for neutron activation analysis.4  It is fueled with about one kilogram of weapon-grade uranium.
  • Light Water Sub-Critical Reactor (LWSCR). Built by Chinese in 1988; operational in 1992.  Used for training purposes.5
  • Heavy Water Zero Power Reactor (HWZPR) (installed with the supervision of Chinese experts). Constructed by China in 1991; operational in 1995.  Used for heavy water research.6
  • Fuel Fabrication Laboratory (FFL). Operational in 1988; currently used for small scale fuel pellet production.7
  • Uranium Chemistry Laboratory (UCL). Declared closed by Iran in 1998.
  • Graphite Sub-Critical Reactor (GSCR). Built by the Chinese in 1991, used for training purposes.8

Esfahan Uranium Conversion Facility

The Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) at Esfahan contains process lines to convert yellowcake into uranium oxide and uranium hexafluoride.  It began operations in June 2006.
According to information provided to the IAEA, Iran carried out most of its experiments in uranium conversion between 1981 and 1993 at the Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC) and at other facilities at Esfahan.  In 1991, Iran contracted to purchase a turn-key, industrial scale conversion facility from China.  This contract was eventually canceled as a result of U.S. pressure, but Iran retained the design information and built the plant on its own.  Construction of the UCF began in the late 1990s.

Iran declared that it began construction of the UCF without building and testing a pilot scale plant.  After extensive analysis, the IAEA accepted this declaration.

Following the 2004 suspension agreement between Iran and the European Union, Iran stopped conversion activities at the plant in November 2004.  In August 2005, Iran announced that it planned to resume conversion activities, and the IAEA heightened surveillance accordingly.9 

The UCF consists of several conversion lines, mainly the line for the conversion of yellowcake to UF6.  The annual production capacity of the UCF is 200 tonnes of uranium in the form of UF6.  ISIS believes the UCF’s enrichment plateaued at this level in 2008.10  The UF6 is made for the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow. The UCF is also able to convert yellowcake, LEU, and depleted uranium into uranium oxide and depleted uranium metal. Suspicions remain that the line to produce 19.75 percent uranium metal was originally intended to produce HEU metal for nuclear weapons.

Fuel Manufacturing Plant:

In 2003, Iran declared to the IAEA that it was also working on a fuel manufacturing plant at Esfahan to produce finished fuel elements for the Arak heavy water reactor.11  Construction started in 2004, and the site was inaugurated in April 2009.  It principally manufactures fuel pellets for the (yet-incomplete) IR-40 reactor.12 

Fuel Fabrication Laboratory (FFL)

In 1985, Iran began operating a Fuel Fabrication Laboratory (FFL) at Esfahan that it commissioned from a foreign supplier.  Iran informed the IAEA of the FFL in 1993 and provided design information in 1998. It is still in operation.  According to the IAEA, the FFL is suitable for producing small amounts of fuel pellets.

Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant (FPFP)

On May 2, 2012, Iran informed the IAEA that it planned to combine conversion of 19.75 percent uranium hexafluoride to U3O8 and the manufacture of fuel plates of this material into one facility, though these processes were previously carried out in other facilities.13 

Tunnel complex

A total of three tunnel entrances exist at this location.  The tunneling facility was first discovered in December 2004.  The tunnels were created in violation of IAEA safeguards.

Uranium Chemistry Laboratory (UCL)

In the early 1980s, Iran commissioned from a foreign supplier the construction of a Uranium Chemistry Laboratory (UCL).  In 1998, according to the IAEA, Iran declared that UCL had been closed down since 1987.

Zirconium Production Plant (ZPP)

Iran has built a Zirconium Production Plant (ZPP), which, when completed, will be able to produce 10 tonnes of zirconium tubing per year for nuclear fuel cladding.  Construction started in 2004.  The ZPP, according to Iranian officials, will be able to produce zirconium sponge, zirconium alloy strip and bar, magnesium, hafnium, 99.99 percent pure magnesium, zirconium alloys, titanium and titanium alloys, and can do ferrous and non-ferrous metal casting. Its operational status is unclear.

Additional Information

On a 2009 IAEA visit, inspectors discovered 30 tonnes of heavy water in an area of the lab that inspectors visited infrequently.  The IAEA believes that this heavy water was imported, not produced at the Arak heavy water facility.14

For more information check: Related Reports



1 Hussein D. Hassan, “Iranian nuclear sites, “Congressional Research Service, August 9, 2007.
2 Anthony H. Cordesman and Adam C. Seitz, Iranian Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Birth of a Regional Arms Race (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2009).
3 Esfahan: FAS Sept. 30th, 2000
4 “Nuclear Research Reactors in the World, Research Reactor Details - ENTC MNSR,” International Atomic Energy Agency.
5 “Nuclear Research Reactors in the World, Research Reactor Details - ENTC LWSCR,” International Atomic Energy Agency.
6 “Nuclear Research Reactors in the World, Research Reactor Details - ENTC LWSCR,” International Atomic Energy Agency.
7 “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” International Atomic Energy Agency, November 14, 2004.
8 “Nuclear Research Reactors in the World, Research Reactor Details - ENTC GSCR,” International Atomic Energy Agency,
9 “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” International Atomic Energy Agency, September 2, 2005.
10 David Albright, Jacqueline Shire. “Iran’s Uranium Stockpile Dwindling“ (Washington, DC: Institute for Science and International Security), December 30, 2009. 
11 IAEA Board of Governors “Implementation of the NPT safeguards agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran”  GOV/2003/40 June 6th 2003
12 “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” International Atomic Energy Agency, February 21, 2013.
13 “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” International Atomic Energy Agency, May 25, 2012.
14IAEA Report on Iran: Fordow enrichment plant at “advanced stage of construction;” decline in number of P1 centrifuges enriching but P1 centrifuge efficiency increases; discovery of previously unknown stock of heavy water,” (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Science and International Security, November 16, 2009. 

Esfahan Nuclear Technology Center/Research Reactors

According to the IAEA, Iran has a light water sub-critical reactor (LWSCR) that uses uranium metal fuel.  The reactor operates only a few days per year.  The Miniaturized Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR) is a research reactor of Chinese origin.  The MNSR has been in operation since the mid-1990s and has a lifetime supply of one kilogram of 90.2 percent enriched fuel. The Heavy Water Zero Power Reactor, supplied by China, went critical in 1995. There is also a decommissioned graphite sub-critical reactor (GSCR) which used uranium metal fuel.

For other Esfahan-area facilities, see here

For more information on the Esfahan Nuclear Technology Cernter check: Related Reports

Farayand Technique

Farayand Technique is associated with Iran’s gas centrifuge program.  The IAEA states that Iran revealed the formerly secret Farayand Technique in October 2003 as part of a decision to declare far more of its gas centrifuge program to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It was and may still be an important subsidiary of Kalaye Electric

This site has conducted quality control activities for centrifuge components, including rotors, and manufactured centrifuge components for the facilities at Natanz.  This site was initially intended as a site for centrifuge assembly, but that Iranian officials decided it was too far from the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant.

While Iran was trying to hide its centrifuge activities in 2003, this then secret site received centrifuge rotor balancing machines from Kalaye Electric.  This act implies that Iran expected to keep Farayand Technique secret despite the exposure of the secret Natanz and Kalaye Electric facilities. 

According to former senior United Nations officials close to the IAEA, there remain questions about the full intended role of this site.  It is also unclear today whether it continues to play a role in making and testing centrifuges, including advanced ones.

Farayand Technique is located in a valley near 7th of Tir Industries, in an industrial park. Prior to Iran’s suspension of centrifuge activites in 2003, this facility had multiple responsibilities, including making and assembling parts of the centrifuge’s bottom bearing. This part of the centrifuge is designed to hold a thin pin with a ball at its end that is attached to the bottom of the rotor assembly.  The ball, which has a complex grooving pattern, fits inside a cup filled with a specialized oil.  This design allows the rotor to spin rapidly with little friction.  Farayand Technique also performed quality testing on components manufactured in the Esfahan area, including the 7th or Tir facility, and had facilities for assembling and testing centrifuges. 

According to former senior U.N officials close to the IAEA, inspectors who visited this site during the suspension suspected that this site could have been intended as a back-up to the Kalaye Electric facility or perhaps even as a pilot centrifuge plant.  The site had two centrifuge test stands and a test pit, which would have been capable of testing centrifuges.  Next to this facility was a large building under construction, which may have been intended to be a pilot centrifuge plant. It was far bigger than the building housing the pilot centrifuge plant at Natanz.  In this case, Farayand Technique would have also served as a centrifuge assembly plant.

The IAEA conducted extensive environmental sampling at Farayand Technique.  Environmental samples taken from the balancing machines mentioned above indicated the presence of 36 percent enriched uranium.  Iranian authorities maintain that imported P1 centrifuges from Pakistan contaminated the balancing machines, a finding supported by subsequent IAEA findings. 

During the suspension of the centrifuge program between 2003 and 2006, the IAEA placed seals on P1 centrifuge components, maraging steel, high strength aluminum, and centrifuge quality control and manufacturing equipment at three sites, including Farayand Technique, to ensure they were not used to make more centrifuge parts.  When Iran resumed enrichment activities in January 2006, it removed the seals from the equipment under the supervision of IAEA inspectors.  The IAEA has not visited this site since then.

Farayand Technique is sanctioned in UN Security Council Resolution 1737 and U.S. Executive Order 13382.

For more information check: Related Reports



1 IAEA Board of Governors, Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran GOV/2004/11.  February 24, 2004.
2 IAEA Board of Governors, Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran GOV/2004/11.  February 24, 2004.
3Chronology of Key Events (January – December 2006)”  IAEA and Canada

Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP)

Iran began constructing the Fordow uranium enrichment facility in secret as early as 2006.  It was publicly revealed by U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in September 2009, shortly after these nations presented evidence of the facility to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  The facility appears to be a repurposed tunnel complex, with the main enrichment halls buried within a mountain in order to harden the facility against a potential military strike.  Satellite imagery dates the construction of the facility to a period between June 2006 and July 2007, while Iran has told the IAEA that it began to build the facility during the second half of 2007.  After the disclosure of the plant’s existence, Iran downplayed its role in its nuclear program, moving slowly to install the planned number of centrifuges at the site.  In mid-2011, it announced it would install advanced centrifuges at the FFEP rather than IR-1 centrifuges. The facility is designed to hold approximately 3,000 centrifuges. It never installed advanced centrifuges in the facility, but instead deployed the IR-1 model.

The Fordow site has two enrichment halls, Units 1 and 2, each designed to hold 8 cascades of 174 centrifuges per cascade. Iran fully outfitted the facility in late 2012 – early 2013.

On June 8, 2011, Iran announced that it planned to move its production of 19.75% enriched uranium from the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) to the FFEP, and that it would enrich 3.5% low-enriched uranium produced at the Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz. Since February 2013, Iran has produced 19.75 percent enriched uranium at the FFEP using sets of tandem cascades to enrich uranium to 19.75 percent and strip the tails to natural uranium (0.711 percent). Iran claims that the 19.75 percent enriched uranium produced in this facility will be used to produce medical isotopes in the Tehran Research Reactor.

For more information check: Related Reports

Institute of Applied Physics (IAP)

The IAEA’s November 2004 report states that the Applied Physics Institute was located at Lavisan-Shian, at least until 2002, and that the institute was involved in meeting the “education and R&D needs of the Ministry of Defense.”

The IAP arises in discussions between the IAEA and Iran on the “military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.  It is one of three entities (the others being the Physics Research Center and the Educational Research Institute whose procurement activities have been questioned by the IAEA, in particular as it concerns “training courses on neutron calculations, the effect of shock waves on metal, enrichment/isotope separation and ballistic missiles. Efforts to procure spark gaps, shock wave software, neutron sources, special steel parts and radiation measurement equipment, including borehole gamma spectrometers….”

Iran has denied that the Institute’s work was related to EBW detonators and claims the items were for its oil logging industries.  The IAEA continues to investigate the matter.

For more information check: Related Reports

Kalaye Electric Company (also known as Kala Electric)

According to IAEA reports based on interviews with Iranian officials, Kalaye Electric Company, located in Tehran, was Iran’s primary centrifuge research and development site in the late 1990s and early 2000s, until Iran moved operations to the Natanz site in 2002.  Iran operated this site in secret in violation of Iran’s commitments under its safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  In 2003, it revealed the true nature of the site only after the site was exposed publicly, and Iran was subjected to intense international pressure.

Based on Iran’s revised declaration about this site, originally, Kalaye Electric was a private company that was bought by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI).  The name “Kalaye Electric” means “electric goods,” implying that Iran kept the original name to help disguise the true purpose of the facility.

Iran declared that Kalaye Electric became the primary IR-1 centrifuge development and testing site after such work was moved in 1995 from the Tehran Nuclear Research Center.  The IAEA has reported that between 1997 and 2002, Iran assembled and tested IR-1 centrifuges at Kalaye.  Iran used 1.9 kg of imported, undeclared Chinese uranium hexafluoride to test centrifuge machines at the Kalaye Electric Company workshop between 1999 and 2002, before dismantling the centrifuge test facility at the end of 2002.

Public investigations of the site began after the publication of information about secret Iranian enrichment activities.  The first organization to name the facility publicly was the National Council for Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which did so in early 2003.

Following the public revelation of Kalaye Electric, media reports indicated that U.S. satellite imagery showed considerable activity, suggesting that equipment was removed from the site and raising suspicions that Iran was attempting to hide activities before granting access to the IAEA.  The IAEA asked to visit Kalaye Electric in February 2003 and to take environmental samples to determine if any enriched uranium was produced at the site. Iran responded that the facility was a watch factory, but that it also made a few centrifuge components. It initially denied the inspectors’ requests to take environmental samples, claiming that it did not have to allow access until Iran implemented the Additional Protocol.

Under intense international pressure, Iran subsequently relented and allowed the IAEA limited access in March 2003 and full access in May, but it refused to permit environmental sampling until August 2003. Iran took extraordinary steps to disguise the past use and purpose of this facility, including removing equipment and reconstructing the interior of the main building.  Nonetheless, the IAEA was able to detect enriched uranium at another building at this site, further pressuring Iran to declare fully its activities there and elsewhere.

Since moving many centrifuge research and development activities to the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) at Natanz, Kalaye Electric has remained an important centrifuge research and development site. 

For more information check: Related Reports

Karaj Agricultural and Medical Center

The IAEA first learned of Karaj from NCRI, which named the site and said it was related to gas centrifuge activities.  The IAEA was initially denied access in May 2003, but finally was allowed to visit in August 2003.

Iran initially said that Karaj (also sometimes called Ramandeh) was primarily involved with agricultural studies said to be unrelated to nuclear fuel cycle activities.  In October 2003, when Iran revealed the existence of the laser enrichment program, it declared that it had moved laser enrichment equipment from Lashkar Ab’ad to Karaj in May 2003.  This material included uranium metal and a large vacuum vessel with associated hardware.  Karaj also stored mass spectrometry equipment that had been used in support of AVLIS research.  There is also radioactive waste storage at Karaj.  Environmental samples were taken of all the equipment at Karaj.

For more information check: Related Reports

Khorasan Metallurgy Industries

Khorasan is identified in Annex III of UN Security Council Resolution 1803 (2008) as a firm involved in the “production of centrifuge components” and subsidiary of the Ammunition Industries Group (AMIG) and Defense Industries Organization (DIO).

Kaveh Cutting Tools Complex, a part of Khorasan Metallurgy Industries, northeast of Tehran near the city of Mashhad, made the P1 centrifuges scoops, molecular pumps and other components. These are all stationary components in a centrifuge and easier to make than the rotating ones.  For other companies involved in manufacturing centrifuge components, see this page.

For more information check: Related Reports

Kimia Maadan

Kimia Maadan (sometimes spelled Kimia Madan or simply KM) is a private company, registered on May 4, 2000, and named as an entity involved in Iran’s so-called “Green Salt” project whose aim was to convert uranium to uranium tetrafluoride (UF4) in a small-scale facility (capacity of one tonne per year of uranium tetrafluoride). The Green Salt project was identified as one of several projects described on files found on a laptop computer, and collectively called the “alleged studies,” which were smuggled from Iran and turned over to Western intelligence agencies.  KM was also under contract from Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) to develop the Gchine uranium mine.  The February 2008 IAEA safeguards report details KM’s work on the Gchine mine project, noting that at its peak, the company employed some 100 people and that its primary task at Gchine was to undertake the “detailed design, to procure and install equipment and to put the Gchine UOC plant into operation.”

For more information check: Related Reports


Kolahdouz is a military industrial complex located in western Tehran that was initially inspected by the IAEA in 2003 after the National Council of Resistance of Iran identified it as a site of covert development of centrifuges for uranium enrichment.  The IAEA’s November 2004 report notes that on a visit “no work was seen at those locations that could be directly linked to uranium enrichment” and that environmental samples did not reveal “any indication of activity involving the use of nuclear material.”

For more information check: Related Reports

Lashkar Ab’ad - Laser Uranium Enrichment

Lashkar Ab’ad was Iran’s secret pilot plant for laser isotope separation until 2003.  This site contained equipment including copper vapor lasers (CVL) that were designed to produce enrichment levels of 3.5-7 percent.  The IAEA reported that the facility would have been capable of highly enriched uranium (HEU) production once all planned equipment was installed.  There were several foreign suppliers to Iran’s laser enrichment program, including the United States, Germany, and Russia. For Lashkar Ab’ad, the most important supplier was Russia.

In 1998, Iran signed a contract with Russian entities to obtain information related to atomic vapor laser isotope separation (AVLIS) and for the supply of the relevant equipment for an undeclared pilot enrichment facility at Lashkar Ab’ad.  However, as a result of U.S. pressure, the Russian government would not grant the Russian supplier with export permits for some of the equipment, in particular the copper vapor laser (up to 150 kW) and dye lasers, some collector parts, the electron beam gun, and the power sources. 

The St. Petersburg Yefremov Institute (NIIEFA), which is part of Rosatom, delivered one large vacuum chamber (5 meters long, 1 meter in diameter) equipped with some diagnostic equipment and diffusion pumps to create the high vacuum inside the chamber.  The Russian supplier also provided some training, and documentation.  This contract specified the delivery of a system that could produce enrichment levels of 3.5-7 percent and to “have actual production of at least 5 kg of a product within the first year after installation.”1

IAEA experts assessed that the system in this contract could have made highly enriched uranium, albeit in very small quantities, if the entire package of equipment had been delivered.2  The AVLIS vacuum vessel had a number of features specific to HEU separation work, including an ion trap for the extraction of ion impurities for increased HEU yield and a collector assembly designed for the relatively low throughput of HEU.

The failure to obtain export permits for the Russian-made lasers did not stop Iran. Independently, Iran had obtained from European suppliers a range of lasers, including dye and copper vapor lasers. It had earlier acquired 50 kilograms of natural uranium metal from China to use as the feed material for an AVLIS plant.

Iran installed its already procured copper vapor lasers and dye lasers with the large vacuum vessel at Lashkar Ab’ad in 2002.  Iran conducted a total of four runs with uranium feed using a total of 500 grams of uranium metal from October 2002 through January 2003, achieving enrichment levels of 0.8 percent. 

Iran took steps to conceal this facility from the IAEA, even after it was revealed publicly.  The IAEA first asked to visit Lashkar Ab’ad in May 2003 after the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) identified the site and said it was related to gas centrifuge activities.  Iran eventually allowed an inspection in August 2003, but it still tried to hide the true purpose of the facility.  Iran initially declared that Lashkar Ab’ad was devoted to laser fusion research and laser spectroscopy, and claimed that its laser program was unrelated to uranium enrichment.  Iran also claimed that no nuclear material had been involved in the experiments.  In May 2003, prior to the IAEA visit, Iran moved some of the equipment and the natural uranium from Lashkar Ab’ad to the Karaj site to avoid detection by the IAEA.

In late October 2003, Iran changed its declaration and acknowledged to the IAEA that a pilot plant for laser enrichment had been established at Lashkar Ab’ad in 2000, after initial development work was conducted at the Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC).  Iran also admitted to doing laser enrichment experiments in violation of its safeguards agreement. 

IAEA safeguards officials visited Lashkar Ab’ad in late 2007 or early 2008 and reported that the laboratories were run by a private company producing and developing laser equipment for industrial purposes according to the February 2008 Iran safeguards report.  This report also noted that the former laser equipment has been dismantled, with some of it stored at the site.  The IAEA added: “The management of the company provided detailed information on current and planned activities, including plans for extensive new construction work, and stated that they are not carrying out, and are not planning, any uranium enrichment activities.” 

On February 7, 2011, however, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated that Iran “possessed” uranium laser enrichment technology.3  IAEA reports have since then reported on the inspectors unsuccessful efforts to determine if Iran’s laser enrichment efforts have restarted. 

For more information check: Related Reports



1 Director General, Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran, September 1, 2004, GOV/2004/60, Annex p. 8.
2 Ibid., Annex p. 8.
3 Olli Heinonen, “Laser Isotope Separation – The Genie is Out of the Bottle,” Presentation to Harvard Kennedy School, July 10, 2012.

Lavisan-Shian (Lavizan-Shian)

Lavisan-Shian, located in north Tehran, housed the Physics Research Center from the late 1980s to at least 1998.  In addition, the site housed other institutions alleged to have been involved in Iran’s parallel military nuclear program.  In 2002 the Applied Physics Institute (IAP) was located at the site.

ISIS was first made aware of Lavisan-Shian in the spring of 2004.  It learned that the site was alleged to have been involved in undeclared nuclear activity, and that authorities had razed part of the site possibly in an effort to conceal activities from IAEA inspectors.

ISIS obtained imagery of the site from August 2003 that showed large buildings inside a secure perimeter.  In imagery taken on March 2004, the buildings were being removed.  Further clearing can be seen in imagery from May 2004.  The site’s dismantlement raised concerns because it is the type of measure Iran might take if it were trying to defeat the IAEA’s environmental sampling capabilities.

Following the publication of ISIS’s report in June 2004, the IAEA used this report as a basis to ask to visit the site. Inspectors had been following activities at the site for several months, and the ISIS report allowed the inspectors to request a visit without revealing their own information about the site.  Iran quickly agreed to the IAEA’s request.  IAEA environmental samples taken at Lavisan showed no evidence of nuclear material, although the IAEA pointed out in the November 2004 safeguards report that the “detection of nuclear material in soil samples would be very difficult in light of the razing of the site.”

Iran told the IAEA that the site had no nuclear material requiring a declaration, and that no fuel cycle activities were conducted there.  However, Iran’s declaration about the site remains unverified and lacks credibility.

The IAEA describes in its safeguards reports, such as in its November 2004 and February 2011 reports, the history of the Lavisan site, in particular the role of the Physics Research Center in procuring nuclear-related equipment, allegedly for a parallel, undeclared military nuclear effort. 

ISIS has also published a number of reports about the PHRC. For example, the site housed at least one whole body radiation counter, sensitive equipment designed to measure radiation levels in humans who inhaled or ingested small quantities of radionuclides.  Iran claimed that it used these detectors for “nuclear defence” research. ISIS’s report on these whole body counters is available here.  Although the whole body counters are clearly related to radiation protection and detection, their presence at what was viewed as a military site aroused suspicions of hidden nuclear activities.  In addition, an examination of the evidence shows that whole body counters were procured as part of a major effort by the PHRC to obtain radiation protection capabilities and also capabilities to run a number of fuel cycle activities, including gas centrifuges, uranium mining, uranium conversion, and heavy water activities.  In this context, the procurement of the whole body counters can be interpreted as part of a PHRC effort to ensure the health and safety of those working in its fuel cycle and nuclear weaponization activities.

In its safeguards report of February 2008, the IAEA notes that it has asked Iran to clarify “a number of actions by the ERI (Education Research Institute), PHRC and IAP” which could relate to the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, including “training courses on neutron calculations, the effect of shock waves on metal, enrichment/isotope separation and ballistic missiles. Efforts to procure spark gaps, shock wave software, neutron sources, special steel parts and radiation measurement equipment, including borehole gamma spectrometers.” As of early 2013, the role of the PHRC in Iran’s nuclear procurement remained an outstanding issue between the IAEA and Iran.

View ISIS’s work on the PHRC here.

For more information on Lavisan Shian check: Related Reports

Ministry of Defense, Armed Forces and Logistics (MODAFL)

According to the Treasury Department’s designation of MODAFL as an Iranian entity subject to sanctions, it is responsible for overseeing Iran’s Defense Industries Organization (DIO) and has been subject to sanctions previously for “missile technology proliferation activities.”  The U.S. government asserts that MODAFL also has authority over Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO), which is responsible for “ballistic missile research, development and production activities and organizations, including the Shahid Hemmat Industries Group (SHIG) and the Shahid Bakeri Industries Group (SBIG).”  Both entities are named in UN Security Council Resolution 1737 and therefore subject to the UN sanctions contained in that resolution (primarily restrictions on trading with named entities).

MODAFL is reportedly the employer of the nuclear scientist Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh who is believed to oversee a number of projects related to weaponization R&D.  Fakhrizadeh, a nuclear engineer and reportedly a brigadier-general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is also believed to oversee activities at Kimiaa Madan.  The IAEA has sought unsuccessfully permission to interview Dr. Fakhrizadeh, who is named in Annex I to UN Security Council Resolution 1747 (2007) as a person involved in nuclear activities.  He was also designated by the Department of State on July 8, 2008 as a person “of proliferation concern.” The finding notes that Fakhrizadeh was a senior scientist at the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) and former head of the Physics Research Centre (PHRC), and that Iran has refused the IAEA’s requests to interview him.

For more on Dr. Fakhrizadeh and his role in Iran’s nuclear weapons-related R&D work see notes from the February 2008 IAEA briefing to UN missions.

For more information check: Related Reports


The Natanz Fuel Enrichment complex is the primary site of Iran’s gas centrifuge program. It contains two primary facilities:  the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) and the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP).  It also houses a centrifuge assembly area.  The two primary facilities, as well as other buildings at the Natanz site, can be seen in satellite imagery below.

On March 30, 2005, then President Mohammad Khatami toured the Natanz site accompanied by the media.  This tour produced the first publicly available ground images of Natanz.  A subsequent visit by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2008 led to many images of the complex and centrifuges in the pilot plant. 

The Natanz facility was first publicly identified by the National Council for Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in August 2002.  At that time, NCRI identified the facility as a nuclear fuel fabrication plant.  In December 2002, ISIS released satellite photos of the facility for the first time and correctly identified the site as a gas centrifuge enrichment facility.

Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant

The Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) is Iran’s largest gas centrifuge uranium enrichment facility. It consists of three large underground buildings, two of which are designed to be cascade halls to hold 50,000 centrifuges.  The buildings started as 70 foot deep holes, and satellite imagery showed the construction of thick concrete walls. The FEP began operating in February 2007, and construction on centrifuge cascades is ongoing. The FEP ostensibly exists to produce enriched uranium for light water reactors in Iran, including the Bushehr facility and others that Iran has not yet built.

Iran uses the FEP to produce 3.5 percent low-enriched uranium (LEU) for its nuclear program. Until early 2013, it installed only IR-1 centrifuges in single 174- and 164- machine cascades. Iran announced to the IAEA on January 23, 2013 that it intended to install IR-2m advanced centrifuges at the FEP.

Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant

The Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) is Iran’s centrifuge research and development facility which uses uranium hexafluoride.  Iran has other facilities, mostly unknown publicly, which conduct important tests of centrifuges without introducing uranium hexafluoride.  More is known about the PFEP than other centrifuge manufacturing facilities because its use of uranium hexafluoride requires inspections by the IAEA, which then reports publicly on activities there.

In 2002, Iran moved gas centrifuge research, development, and assembly operations to this facility from Kalaye Electric, its then secret site near Tehran. The PFEP is an above-ground building at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment complex. 

Iran tests centrifuges of various models, including its deployed IR-1 and IR-2m, but also more advanced designs, in single machine, small cascades, and production-scale cascades at the PFEP. Typically, in the test cascades, Iran recombines the product and tails from these cascades, so no enriched uranium is produced.

Since February 2010, Iran has produced 19.75 percent enriched uranium in a set of two, 164-machine IR-1 cascades oriented in tandem, ostensibly for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR).  One of these cascades enriches from 3.5 percent LEU to almost 20 percent low enriched uranium (LEU), while the second one takes the tails from the first and outputs roughly 10 percent LEU and a tails of natural uranium.  The ten percent material is fed into the first cascade in addition to 3.5 percent LEU.  This process allows Iran to more efficiently use its 3.5 percent LEU stock.

For more information check: Related Reports


In the November 2011 IAEA Safeguards report on Iran, the IAEA disclosed that information from member states indicated that Iran constructed a large explosives containment vessel or chamber at the Parchin military complex in 2000 to conduct high explosive and hydrodynamic experiments related to the development of nuclear weapons.  After constructing the chamber at the Parchin site, some 30 kilometers southeast of Tehran, Iran constructed a building around the large cylindrical object. According to the report, “a large earth berm was subsequently constructed between the building containing the cylinder and a neighboring building, indicating the probable use of high explosives in the chamber.” The IAEA obtained satellite images showing this chamber before the roof was placed on the building.

The large Parchin complex is dedicated to research, development, and production of ammunition, rockets, and high explosives.  The complex is owned by Iran’s Defense Industries Organization, and has hundreds of buildings and test sites.  It is a logical site to conduct high explosive work related to nuclear weapons development, which can be hidden among the conventional high explosive activities.  This strategy has been pursued by other proliferant states seeking to hide nuclear weapons development work.

ISIS has closely monitored satellite imagery of the building, as Iran apparently engaged in clean-up activities at the site in multiple phases of activity. The IAEA continues to call on Iran to grant inspectors access to the site, although as of the spring of 2013, Iran had refused IAEA access while continuing to reconstruct the site. 

The IAEA has provided partial information on the type of tests that Iran may have conducted and the media have reported on additional possibilities.  As best as can be determined, three types of tests could have been conducted, each with appropriate diagnostic equipment, although the IAEA has never confirmed such a list and still other types of tests are possible.  The three most commonly discussed tests have been:

  • A test of the spherical symmetry of the initiation of the high explosive components of a nuclear warhead, which could have involved up to 70 kg of high explosives. This test would not involve any uranium.  The November 2011 safeguards report noted that the explosive chamber at Parchin would be suitable for carrying out this type of test.
  • A test to ascertain the symmetry of an imploding hemispherical shell of high explosives, surrounding a natural uranium metal hemisphere, in a scaled down experiment of an implosion package. A technical advisor to ISIS with decades of involvement in the experimental study of nuclear weapon mock-up explosions evaluated this case.  He assessed that based on the constraints of this chamber and the use of powerful high explosives, the explosive shell would contain about 50 kilograms of high explosives, an amount within the constraints of the chamber.
  • A test of a uranium deuteride neutron initiator.  Such an initiator, which is difficult to develop, must be adequately compressed by high explosives in order to produce a small burst of neutrons which initiate the chain reaction and the nuclear explosion.  In a test that could have occurred in the explosive chamber, the initiator would be located at the center of a high explosive compression system involving a sphere of high explosives and possibly a non-nuclear surrogate material for the weapon-grade uranium core.  The goal of the experiment is to compress the initiator, causing the fusion of the deuterium and a spurt of neutrons that could be measured by highly sensitive detectors located outside the chamber.  This test would involve only a few grams of uranium and deuterium with variable amounts of explosives.

Parchin South

This more recent case is not the first time Parchin has aroused suspicions of secret nuclear weapons work.  The site first surfaced publicly in August 2004 when ISIS was alerted by ABC News to allegations that the complex was being used for high explosives testing that may be consistent with those conducted for nuclear weapons research.  Commercial satellite imagery of this collection of potential high explosive test bunkers and buildings was released publicly by ISIS in September 2004. 

Within the larger Parchin complex, there is an isolated, separately secured site at which it was believed the weapons-related research could have taken place.  Prior to public release of the imagery, the IAEA was aware of the facility through analysis of commercial satellite imagery and its potential for nuclear weapons-related work.  Iran initially rebuffed IAEA requests to inspect the site, eventually allowing access to parts of the facility in early 2005.

On November 1, 2005 Agency inspectors were given access to a subset of the buildings at Parchin and were able to take several environmental samples.  The IAEA’s February 2006 report notes that “The Agency did not observe any unusual activities in the buildings visited, and the results of the analysis of environmental samples did not indicate the presence of nuclear material at those locations.”  On the ground inspections showed that certain sites were not as capable as suggested by satellite imagery.  Nonetheless, the IAEA was unable to visit all the sites it wanted to inspect and the issue about nuclear weapons related work at Parchin remained unsettled. 

At the time, the IAEA did not know about the high explosive test chamber mentioned above, which is located in another section of the Parchin site.  The buildings it wanted to visit in 2005 are far from this chamber.  Moreover, the inspectors were unlikely to have asked to visit the building housing the chamber, given its non-descript nature in a complex routinely testing high explosives and the large number of buildings at the Parchin site.

For more information check: Related Reports

Pars Trash (Tarash)

Pars Trash, a subsidiary of Kalaye Electric located in Tehran, is a centrifuge site that received equipment from Kalaye Electric in particular for Iran’s centrifuge manufacturing and development effort.

Pars Trash, a small company employing about ten people, is located in Tehran among warehouses and light industrial buildings about a kilometer west of the Kalaye Electric facility. It manufactured centrifuge outer casings. These are the thick aluminum tubes that house the centrifuge rotor assembly and, in the case of an accident, prevent broken pieces of the thin-walled rotor assembly, which can act like shrapnel, from injuring or even killing bystanders. Pars Trash was originally a small, private factory involved in making automobile parts. It went bankrupt and was bought by the Kalaye Electric Company, or its subsidiary Farayand, for the three expensive computer-operated machine tools it owned, which could be adapted for the manufacture of centrifuge components.

An engineer married to the plant manager is believed to have been the backbone of the operation. She programmed and set up the machines to make centrifuge components and ensured their quality, before turning the operation over to a technician who subsequently operated the automated machines to produce thousands of components.

In February 2003, Pars Trash was involved in Iran’s concealment efforts.  The facility stored equipment that Iran had hastily moved from the Kalaye Electric site in an attempt to prevent its discovery by IAEA inspectors who were seeking access to Kalaye Electric.  Subsequently, under intense international pressure, Iran revealed these and other concealment activities to the IAEA.

The current status of operations at Pars Trash is unknown, as IAEA inspectors had access to the site only while Iran was adhering voluntarily to the suspension of its centrifuge program and the Additional Protocol, a status that ended in 2006.

For more information check: Related Reports

Physics Research Center

The Physics Research Center (PHRC) was a military facility that operated mainly in the 1990s.  The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has collected evidence that supports that the PHRC conducted parallel, undeclared military fuel cycle activities.  The November 2011 IAEA safeguards report lists the PHRC’s role in Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons and military fuel cycle efforts and successor organizations. 

ISIS obtained approximately 1,600 telexes detailing the procurement activity of the PHRC in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The information in these telexes and evidence gathered by the IAEA support that the PHRC managed a parallel, secret military nuclear program in the 1990s whose long-term aim was to lay the basis for Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. Reports based on the telexes can be found here.

Iran continues to deny allegations about the PHRC’s past military nuclear activities.  According to the November 2004 IAEA report, Iran declared that the Physics Research Center was established at Lavisan-Shian in 1989 for “preparedness to combat and neutralization of casualties due to nuclear attacks and accidents (nuclear defence) and also support and provide scientific advice and services to the Ministry of Defence.”  Iran insisted that “no nuclear material and nuclear activities related to fuel cycle were carried out at Lavisan-Shian.”

Iran’s explanations lack credibility.  As a result, the IAEA has continued to investigate the PHRC’s past activities.  In particular, the IAEA has investigated reports that the PHRC had sought to acquire dual-use equipment relevant to “enrichment and conversion activities.”  While some issues have been resolved, the bulk of the questions remain unanswered.  Since 2008, Iran has refused to discuss the IAEA’s questions and concerns about the activities of the PHRC.  In 2012, Iran stated that it would no longer answer the IAEA’s questions about procurement.

For more information check: Related Reports

Pishgam Company

Little is known about the Pishgam company.  UN Security Council Resolution 1803 (2008) states that it was involved in the construction of the uranium conversion facility at Esfahan.  As a separate matter, the IAEA’s May 2008 report notes that it continues to seek information from Iran regarding the design of a PUREX-based process for the AEOI.  Purex is a reference to the process used for recovering uranium or plutonium from spent reactor fuel.

For more information check: Related Reports

Sanam Electronic Industry Group

Sanam Electronic Industry Group in Tehran was another DIO-associated facility involved in the manufacture of centrifuge components.

For more information check: Related Reports

Shahid Hemat Industrial group (SHIG)

The Shahid Hemat Industrial Group (SHIG) arises first in the February 2008 IAEA report recounting discussions with Iran over the procurement activities of the Physics Research Center.  In 1988 the head of SHIG was approached on behalf of Tehran University for help in procuring a mass spectrometer for educational purposes.  According to Iran, the mass spectrometer was never delivered. 

More relevant to Iran’s alleged nuclear weaponization efforts, the May 2008 IAEA report cites a March 3, 2003 document from Dr. Fakhrizadeh to to Shahid Hemat Industrial Group (SHIG) management, referring to the “Amad Plan” and seeking assistance with the prompt transfer of data for “Project 111”.  For more regarding Fakhrizadeh and his role in Iran’s weaponization efforts, see MODAFL and notes from the February 2008 IAEA briefing to UN missions.

According to UN Resolution 1737 (2006), SHIG is a subordinate entity to the Aerospace Industries Organization, which conducts research and development on ballistic missiles.

For more information check: Related Reports

TABA Facility

The TABA facility, once known as the Iran Cutting Tools company, reportedly makes centrifuge components.  The exact type of components and number made remain uncertain.  In particular, it is unknown if this site has made the more sensitive rotating components of centrifuges. 

Iran stopped informing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the locations of its gas centrifuge component manufacturing and assembly facilities in 2006.  In the past, Iran has utilized existing commercial and military industries to manufacture centrifuge components.  As such, it is plausible that the TABA facility makes centrifuge components for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) under contract.

For more information check: Related Reports

Tehran Nuclear Research Center

The Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC) in north Tehran is Iran’s main nuclear research center.  It houses several important nuclear research facilities. 

The TNRC conducted many secret nuclear activities.  Several of these activities involved nuclear material and were in violation of Iran’s obligations under its comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

An example of an important secret program was the gas centrifuge program.  It started at the TNRC in 1985 under the plasma physics department.1  According to a former senior U.N. official close to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran stated that one of the laboratories of the plasma physics department ran one or two test centrifuges in the late 1980s or early 1990s, although apparently without uranium hexafluoride.  The department built another facility at the TNRC with a large hall that was likely intended to hold cascades of IR-1 centrifuges that would enrich uranium, according to this official.  But, according to this official, Iran in the mid-1990s became increasingly concerned about the difficulty of hiding a secret plant that would enrich uranium in blatant violation of its safeguards agreement.  This was a well-known nuclear site and Western and IAEA scrutiny of Iran’s secret activities at the site was growing.2

Starting in about 1993, the IAEA asked to visit more facilities at the TNRC than just those declared under Iran’s safeguards agreement.  At one point, the IAEA even asked to visit the larger plasma physics facility that was to house centrifuge cascades, but Iran refused, according to a former senior U.N. official close to the IAEA.  Iran cited a fire that had just occurred, preventing a visit; an explanation which apparently at the time satisfied the IAEA.  Nonetheless, faced with the possibility of the centrifuge program’s exposure, Iran decided to move its centrifuge research and development activities to Kalaye Electric, according to Iran’s more truthful declarations to the IAEA nearly ten years later in 2003 and 2004.  Other secret activities are described below.

Jabr Ibn Havan Multipurpose Laboratories (JHL)

One of the primary facilities at the Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TCNC) is the Jabr Ibn Hayan Multipurpose Laboratories (JHL) where Iran conducted many undeclared nuclear activities.  JHL has been the site of many nuclear research and development activities, including using shielded glove boxes/hot cells; a uranium metal purification and casting laboratory; mass spectrometer and laser laboratories; and facilities for the testing of uranium purification and conversion processes.  JHL also contains nuclear waste disposal facilities.

Iran conducted a range of activities using undeclared, imported uranium in forms including uranium oxide (UO2), uranium tetrafluoride (UF4), and uranium hexafluoride (UF6).  When the IAEA intensified its investigations in Iran in February 2003, it found that JHL used undeclared UF4 imported from China to make uranium metal.  The conversion equipment used in that project has been dismantled and stored.  

Iran has told the IAEA that small amounts of imported UO2 were prepared for targets at JHL, and were irradiated at the Tehran Research Reactor.  Glove boxes at another lab at TNRC were used for plutonium separation experiments using these irradiated targets.  Those glove boxes were then moved to JHL, and subsequently moved to Esfahan.

A UF6 container inspected at JHL was first found to be missing a few kilograms of UF6. Iran initially declared that the container had leaked, but following environmental testing at other facilities, including Kalaye Electric, Iran was forced to admit that this material had been used in centrifuge testing. 

Molybdenum, Iodine and Xenon Radioisotope Production Facility (MIX Facility)

The Molybdenum, Iodine and Xenon Radioisotope Production Facility (MIX Facility), completed in 2005, at TNRC is a laboratory for the production of radioisotopes of molybdenum, iodine and xenon from natural uranium oxide irradiated in a research reactor.  Iran started construction on the MIX Facility in 1995.  It contains hot cells which could be used for small scale plutonium separation activities.  Because Iran’s largest research reactor, the Tehran Research Reactor, does not have the neutron flux required to produce the isotopes that would then be separated in the MIX facility, this facility is unable to operate as planned.

Between June 1987 and February 1999, while the plant was still under construction, Iran declared it irradiated gram quantities of the undeclared UO2 imported from China in the TRR in about 50 experiments, and sent it to the MIX Facility for separation of I-131.

Radiochemistry Laboratories of TNRC

The Radiochemistry Laboratories contained a glove box for radioisotope separation.  Iran has declared to the IAEA that neither the laboratory nor the radiochemistry section of TNRC still exists.  They said that the glove box used at the facility was moved to a warehouse at Esfahan in 2000.

Iran declared to the IAEA that it had carried out UF4 conversion experiments on a laboratory scale during the 1990s at the Radiochemistry Laboratories using imported depleted UO2 which had previously been declared as having been lost during processing.  Iran told the IAEA that material related to uranium conversion had been produced during bench and laboratory scale experiments at the Radiochemistry Laboratories and at Esfahan.

Tehran Research Reactor (TRR)

The Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) is a 5 megawatt-thermal (MWth) pool-type light water research reactor. The United States supplied the TRR to Iran in 1967 and weapon-grade uranium fuel for the reactor. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspects this reactor.

After the 1979 revolution, Iran was no longer able to procure replacement fuel from the United States or Europe.  In 1987, the AEOI paid Argentina’s Applied Research Institute (INVAP) $5.5 million to convert the reactor’s fuel from 93 percent enriched uranium to slightly less than 20 percent enriched uranium, just below the cutoff for highly enriched uranium (HEU). (A timeline of the fuel requirements for the Tehran Research Reactor can be found here: Argentine Low-Enriched Uranium at the Tehran Research Reactor) The reactor has been operating with LEU fuel since 1993.

Of the original U.S.-supplied fuel, about 7 kilograms of irradiated HEU remains stored at the reactor site.  Iran likewise is storing irradiated Argentine-supplied LEU

The reactor has operated at 3 MW-th, partially due to a shortage of fuel. The Tehran Research Reactor is expected to run out of Argentine-supplied fuel at the end of 2010 or sometime in 2011.
Iran used this reactor to conduct activities possibly linked to early efforts to develop nuclear weapons.  Without notifying the IAEA Iran irradiated uranium oxide (UO2) targets in the TRR and separated plutonium in glove boxes at Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC) laboratories.  Iran also admitted to producing small amounts of polonium-210 in the TRR in the early 1990s through the irradiation of bismuth targets.  Polonium 210 is a well-known radioactive material used in a beryllium-polonium neutron initiator that starts the chain reaction in a nuclear weapon.  Iran claims that the polonium was produced as part of a study of the production of neutron sources for use in radioisotope thermoelectric generators and not for use in a nuclear weapons neutron initiator.  The TRR was under traditional safeguards at the time of the undeclared plutonium experiments and polonium production.  This type of safeguards is not designed to detect such small-scale activities.

Fuel Swap Proposals

Tehran Research Reactor Fuel Requirements

For more information on the TRR check: Related Reports

For more information on the TNRC check: Related Reports



1 David Albright, Peddling Peril (New York: Free Press, 2010).
2 Peddling Peril, op. cit.

Uranium Mining

The Saghand Mine

The Saghand Mine, located in Yazd in central Iran, is designed to extract low grade hard rock ore bodies through conventional underground mining techniques. The annual estimated production output of the mine is 50 tonnes of uranium.

According to IAEA reports, Chinese experts assessed that the mine contains approximately 1,000 tons of uranium.  For some perspective on what this means, high-grade ore-bodies can contain several percent uranium (U).  Low-grade bodies contain 0.1% U. Concentrations under 0.075% (750 ppm) are generally considered uneconomical to mine.  Iran’s ore falls under this category, with concentrations of only 553 ppm.

Iran ostensibly began mining at this site on April 9, 2013.1 

Ardakan Yellowcake Production Plant

The Yellowcake Production Plant at Ardakan, typically called a mill, processes uranium ore from the Saghand mine into uranium ore concentrate (yellowcake). It is designed to process 50 tonnes of uranium per year, a capacity matching that of the Saghand mine.  The installation of the infrastructure and processing buildings at Ardakan began in 2004.

On April 8, 2013, Ardakan Governor Ahmad Kamali announced that the Saghand mine and the Ardakan yellowcake production plant would soon come “on stream.”2  Iranian TV ran this video showcasing the facilities on April 19, 2013.

Gchine Mine and Mill

The Gchine mine is located in southern Iran near Bandar Abbas.  The associated mill is located on site.  The estimated production capacity for the mine is 21 tonnes of uranium per year.  Questions were raised by the IAEA regarding the ownership of the mine and its relationship to Iran’s military.  A detailed description of the IAEA’s discussions with Iran regarding the mine’s provenance and current status is contained in the February 2008 IAEA report.

The IAEA reported in 2004 that the Gchine mine and co-located mill had begun production and would eventually produce 21 tons of uranium per year.  The uranium, which contains “low but variable grade uranium ore,” is located in near surface deposits that are open-pit mined.

This facility is controversial for two reasons.  Iran appears not to have disclosed it to the IAEA in 2003 when Iran initially reported its fuel cycle activities to the IAEA (the November 2003 report contains a detailed list of facilities and sites associate with the nuclear fuel cycle in Iran, but makes no mention of Gchine, or the Bandar Abbas site, as it was identified by an Iranian opposition group in 2004).cite report

Second, the mine was developed by Kimia Maadan, a private company linked to the so-called alleged studies documents that suggest possible nuclear weapons-related research and development by Iran.

The output of the Gchine mine is inadequate to meet the refueling requirements of a single 1,000 MW electric power reactor, which would require approximately 250 tonnes of uranium to yield approximately 25 tonnes of low enriched uranium, enough for a single reloading of the reactor’s fuel (the initial fueling would require three times as much).  Gchine produces only a fraction of the uranium needed to keep the Esfahan uranium conversion plant operating at both current and projected levels.3 

However, the output of the Gchine mine is adequate for a nuclear weapons program based on highly enriched uranium. Such a program needs far less yellowcake than a commercial nuclear power program.  In fact, the information in the possession of the IAEA suggests that the Gchine mine was originally intended as a source of uranium for a military nuclear program.  After the exposure of Iran’s numerous secret nuclear sites in 2002-2004, Iran transferred ownership to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran and relabeled the site a civilian uranium mine. 

See more ISIS work assessing Iran’s yellowcake capabilities here.

For more information check: Related Reports



1Yellowcake Production Plant at Ardakan to come on stream Tuesday,” IRNA, April 8, 2013.
2Yellowcake Production Plant at Ardakan to come on stream Tuesday,” IRNA, April 8, 2013.
3 David Albright, Jacqueline Shire, and Paul Brannan, “Is Iran Running Out of Yellowcake?” (Washington, DC: ISIS) February 11, 2009.