Lashkar Ab'ad

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Last Updated: August 21, 2013
Other Name: N/A
Location: Hashtgerd
Subordinate To: Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI)
Size: Small pilot laser enrichment facility
Facility Status: Possibly operational

In 2002 Iran established a pilot uranium laser enrichment plant at Lashkar Ab'ad, and between 2002 and 2003 conducted enrichment experiments with 22kg of undeclared natural uranium metal. [1] Tehran purchased most of the equipment for the plant from foreign suppliers, and reportedly intended to produce 5kg of uranium with an enrichment level of up to 7% in the first year of operation using the atomic vapor laser isotope separation (AVLIS) method. [2] Iran initially denied the IAEA access to the site, removed some equipment, and declared that the facility was conducting research on laser fusion research and laser spectroscopy. [3] Tehran later admitted that it had conducted laser enrichment experiments at the site, and several IAEA inspections determined that the AVLIS facility was able to produce small quantities of highly-enriched uranium. [4] However, the facility never became fully operational due to Iran's inability to purchase critical equipment, such as electron beam guns, from abroad. [5] Iran dismantled the AVLIS equipment in 2003 and shipped it to the Karaj Agricultural and Medical Center, where it remains in storage.

However, a 2013 report from the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) concluded that Iran may be continuing to pursue laser enrichment technology at Lashkar Ab’ad. The authors of the report, David Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini, analyzed satellite imagery of substantial recent construction at the Lashkar Ab'ad site in the context of articles on laser technology from Iranian scientific journals and official statements. [6]

Sources:
[1] Yonah Alexander and Milton M. Hoenig, The New Iranian Leadership (London: Praeger Security International, 2008), p. 140.
[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), p. 243.
[3] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), 10 November 2003, www.iaea.org.
[4] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), 1 September 2004, www.iaea.org.
[5] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), 1 September 2004, www.iaea.org.
[6] David Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini, "Lashkar Ab'ad: Iran's Unexplained Laser Enrichment Capabilities," Institute for Science and International Security, 29 July 2013, isis.org.

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This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2017.