Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF)

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Last Updated: August 21, 2013
Other Name: N/A
Location: Isfahan (Esfahan)
Subordinate To: Isfahan Nuclear Technology Center (INTC); Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI)
Size: Industrial scale
Facility Status: Operational; undergoing maintenance since summer 2009

Iran began construction of the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) at Esfahan in 1999 based on design information provided by China. [1] Tehran had received the required documents and training before China cancelled a contract to construct two UCFs in Iran under intense diplomatic pressure from the United States. [2] Construction of the first process line ended in 2004 and production started in 2005.

Of the several process lines Iran plans to install at the facility, only the production line for converting natural uranium to UF6 is complete and operational. [3] Iran has sent some of the UF6 to the enrichment plant at Natanz. The total amount of UF6 produced at the plant stands at 550 tons. [4] According to the May 2013 IAEA report, Iran also plans to use the UCF to "produce UO2 powder from UF6 enriched up to 5% U-235, uranium metal ingots from natural and depleted UF4, and UF4 from depleted UF6"; however, as of May 2013 concrete steps towards these goals have not yet been taken. [5]

Iran also stores a considerable amount of heavy water at the UCF and has denied repeated requests by the IAEA to take samples of the material. [6] Iran has constructed underground tunnels below the plant for, as of yet, unknown purposes. In order to protect the UCF and other nuclear related facilities from aerial attack, Tehran has deployed several anti-aircraft missile batteries around Isfahan (Esfahan). [7]

In March 2010, Iran informed the IAEA of its intent to produce fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) and allocate part of the UCF for research and development activities in this regard. [8] In August 2010, Iran informed the Agency that it would begin the installation of equipment for the conversion of the UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 to U3O8 for TRR fuel fabrication in November 2010, but according to the May 22, 2013 IAEA report, such an installation had not yet commenced. [9]

A November 2011 explosion in Isfahan may have damaged some part of the UCF, although reports conflict and details remain unclear. [10]

Sources:
[1] John W. Garver, China and Iran: Ancient Partners in a Post-Imperial World (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2006), p. 153.
[2] John W. Garver, China and Iran: Ancient Partners in a Post-Imperial World (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2006), p. 152.
[3] Other process lines include the production of UO2 for the IR-40 heavy water reactor at Arak and the production of low enriched UO2 as light-water reactor fuel. For a complete list see: "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), February 18, 2010, www.iaea.org.
[4] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), November 23, 2010, www.iaea.org.
[5] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), May 22, 2013, www.iaea.org.
[6] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), November 23, 2010, www.iaea.org.
[7] "Nuclear, Iran - Proliferation," Jane's CBRN Assessments, May 27, 2010, www.janes.com.
[8] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), May 31, 2010, www.iaea.org.
[9] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), September 6, 2010, www.iaea.org; "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), November 23, 2010, www.iaea.org.
[10] ISIS Imagery Brief, "No Visible Evidence of Explosion at Esfahan Nuclear Site; Adjacent Facility Razed," Institute for Science and International Security, December 8, 2011, www.isisnucleariran.org; Yossi Melman and Reuters, "Report: Explosion rocks Iran city of Isfahan, home to key nuclear facility," Haaretz, November 28, 2011; Hossein Jaseb Tehran and Reuters, "Iranian media contradict each other regarding blast reports," The Globe and Mail, November 29, 2011; Sheera Frenkel, "The secret war on Iran," The Times of London, December 1, 2011.

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