Nuclear Sites

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

site imagery

Date: Aug 22, 2004
Photo Type: Satellite
Date: May 10, 2004
Photo Type: Satellite
Date: Aug 11, 2003
Photo Type: Satellite