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
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.
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, http://www.iaea.org.
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.
14 “IAEA 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.