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Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP)

Last Modified: Oct. 10, 2013
Other Name: Kashan
Location: Natanz Enrichment Plant
Subordinate To: Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI)
Size: 1,000 centrifuge capacity
Facility Status: Operational

The Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) is a test, research, development, and pilot enrichment facility located above ground in the complex that houses the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz. The PFEP, which consists of a cascade hall that can accommodate six cascades (164 centrifuges each), divided into a production area and an R&D area, began operations in 2003. [1] Iran uses the facility to test new centrifuge designs such as the IR-3 and IR-4 and, since February 2010, to further enrich low enriched uranium produced at the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP). Apart from two 164-machine IR-1 cascades, the facility currently also has 10-machine and 20-machine cascades of IR-1, IR-2m and IR-4 centrifuges. [2] In August 201, the IAEA Director General reported that Iran had installed 129 IR-4 centrifuges in Cascade 4, and intended to install IR-5, IR-6 and IR6s designs – new types of centrifuges – as single machines in Cascade 2 in the R&D area of the PFEP. The August 2013 IAEA report indicated that Iran had been feeding natural UF6 into single IR-1, IR-2m, IR-4, IR-6, and IR-6s centrifuges and short cascades in the R&D area, but had not withdrawn the enriched product, ultimately recombining it with tails. [3]

In February 2010, Tehran announced that the PFEP would begin to enrich UF6 to up to 20% U-235, reportedly for the production of fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. [4] Later that month, the IAEA confirmed Iran's ability to enrich up to 19.8%. [5] Observed by IAEA inspectors, Iran also moved 1,950kg of low enriched UF6 from the FEP to the PFEP. Since July 2010, Iran has been feeding UF6 into two interconnected 164-machine IR-1 cascades in the production hall. As of May 2013, the PFEP had produced 177.8 kg of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235. [6] Tehran's decision to enrich uranium up to 20% levels has intensified concerns about a potential nuclear breakout scenario, because "a stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium would cut by more than half the time needed to enrich to levels above 90 percent--levels that are necessary for a bomb." [7]

Sources:
[1] International Atomic Energy Agency, "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council Resolutions 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008), and 1835 (2008) in the Islamic Republic of Iran," Report by the Director General, 31 May 2010, www.iaea.org.
[2] International Atomic Energy Agency, "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran," Report by the Director General, 25 May 2012, www.iaea.org.
[3] International Atomic Energy Agency, "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran," Report by the Director General, August 2013, www.iaea.org.
[4] Hossein Jaseb and Fredrik Dahl, "Pressure Grows for Iran Sanctions over Atomic Plans," Reuters, 8 February 2010.
[5] International Atomic Energy Agency, "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council Resolutions 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), 1803 (2008), and 1835 (2008) in the Islamic Republic of Iran," Report by the Director General, 18 February 2010, www.iaea.org.
[6] International Atomic Energy Agency, "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran," Report by the Director General, August 2013, www.iaea.org.
[7] David Albright, Paul Brannan, and Andrea Stricker, "Has Iran Initiated a Slow Motion Breakout to a Nuclear Weapon?" Institute for Science and International Security, 12 July 2010, www.isisnucleariran.org.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents.

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