Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC)

View All Iran Facilities

Last Updated: August 21, 2013
Other Name: N/A
Location: Tehran
Subordinate To: Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI)
Size: Unknown
Facility Status: Operational

The TNRC houses several of Iran's primary nuclear research facilities, including Jabr Ibn Hayan Multipurpose Laboratories, Molybdenum, Iodine and Xenon Radioisotope Production Facility, Radiochemistry Laboratories and the Tehran Research Reactor. The TNRC conducted many undeclared activities at its various laboratories, including plutonium separation, uranium conversion, laser enrichment and polonium production. [1]

Enrichment

In 1991, Iran concluded a contract with China for the delivery of a Laser Spectroscopy Laboratory (LSL) and a Comprehensive Separation Laboratory (CSL), to be established at TNRC. [2] Over the course of the 1990s, Iran used 8kg of natural uranium metal in LSL and CSL experiments using the atomic vapor laser isotope separation (AVLIS) method. [3] According to the IAEA, the CSL was partially operational until 1994 and Iran reached enrichment levels in milligram quantities of up to 13% with the help of foreign scientists. [4] After 1994, Iran was unable to achieve isotope separation with either the LSL or the CSL due to continuous technical difficulties. [5] Iran dismantled both the LSL and the CSL between 2000 and 2003.

Reprocessing

Between 1988 and 1993 Iran conducted undeclared reprocessing experiments with 3kg of depleted natural uranium targets, irradiated in the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR), in three shielded boxes in a hot cell at the Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC). [6] According to the IAEA, Iran separated approximately 100 milligrams of plutonium, a much higher figure than the 200 micrograms declared by Iran. [7] In late 2003, the Agency took samples from both the solution containing the plutonium and the shielded boxes used in the experiments. However, inconsistencies in the isotopic composition of the samples brought up questions about the origin of the material. [8] Iran later informed the Agency that between 1987 and 1993, it produced pellets from imported UO2, which were then converted to capsules and irradiated in the TRR. Between 1991 and 1993, Iran separated plutonium from the irradiated UO2 targets and produced plutonium solution, which was then purified in 1995 and 1998 and converted into plutonium disks for analysis. [9] The purification of the plutonium as well as the preparation of the original depleted uranium targets was conducted at Jabr Ibn Havan Multipurpose Laboratories, one of the TNRC's associated laboratories. [10] However, the analyses of the disks did not clarify the inconsistencies and the IAEA asserted in June 2006 that it "cannot exclude the possibility...that the plutonium analyzed by the Agency was derived from source(s) other than the ones declared by Iran." [11]

Another laboratory at the TNRC that has attracted the attention of the IAEA is the Molybdenum, Iodine and Xenon Radioisotope Production Facility (MIX Facility). The MIX facility is a laboratory for the production of medical isotopes from natural uranium oxide and contains hot cells that could be used for plutonium separation. [12] Iran completed construction in 2005, but the facility never became operational due to technical difficulties. [13] However, between 1987 and 1999, Iran used the uncompleted laboratory to separate Iodine-131 from small quantities of the irradiated natural uranium targets. [14]

The IAEA reported in May 2013 that it had not detected any reprocessing activities at the TNRC and the MIX facility; however, it emphasized that "It is only with respect to TRR, the MIX Facility and the other facilities to which the Agency has access that the Agency can confirm that there are no ongoing reprocessing related activities in Iran." [15]

Research and Development

Iran inaugurated its first nuclear research facility in 1967. [16] The center consists of 11 departments that conduct research on most aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, including departments for nuclear physics, isotope production, reactor research, analytical chemistry, nuclear electronics and fusion. [17]

Weaponization

Between 1988 and 1993, Iran conducted undeclared irradiation experiments of depleted natural uranium targets in the Tehran Research Reactor at the TNRC. [18] During the same period, Iran irradiated two bismuth targets in an attempt to extract the isotope Polonium-210. [19] In conjunction with beryllium, Po-210 has applications as a neutron initiator in some nuclear weapon designs. Iran declared that the experiments were part of a feasibility study regarding the production of radioisotope thermoelectric generators. [20] The IAEA reported that it remained "somewhat uncertain about the plausibility of the stated purpose of the experiments." [21]

Sources:
[1] "Nuclear Sites, Tehran Nuclear Research Center," Institute for Science and International Security, www.isisnucleariran.org.
[2] Yonah Alexander and Milton M. Hoenig, The New Iranian Leadership (London: Praeger Security International, 2008), p. 135.
[3] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), November 15, 2004, www.iaea.org.
[4] "Iran Hones Laser Skills....With Uranium Enrichment in Mind?" WMD Insights, February 2006, www.wmdinsights.com.
[5] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), November 15, 2004, www.iaea.org.
[6] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), November 15, 2004, www.iaea.org.
[7] Joseph Cirincione, Jon B. Wolfsthal and Miriam Rajkumar, Deadly Arsenals (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005), p. 302.
[8] Yonah Alexander and Milton M. Hoenig, The New Iranian Leadership, (London: Praeger Security International, 2008), p. 142.
[9] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), September 2, 2005, www.iaea.org.
[10] "Nuclear Sites, Facilities, Tehran Nuclear Research Center," Institute for Science and International Security, www.isisnucleariran.org.
[11] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), April 26, 2006, www.iaea.org.
[12] Anthony H. Cordesman and Khalid R. Al-Rhodan, Iran's Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Real and Potential Threat (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2006), p. 176.
[13] Yonah Alexander and Milton M. Hoenig, The New Iranian Leadership (London: Praeger Security International, 2008), p. 142.
[14] "Nuclear Sites, Facilities, Tehran Nuclear Research Center," Institute for Science and International Security, www.isisnucleariran.org.
[15] "Report on the Implementation of Safeguards in the Islamic Republic of Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency, May 22, 2013, iaea.org.
[16] Yossi Melman and Meir Javedanfar, The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran (New York: Basic Books, 2008), p. 84.
[17] Ghannadi-Maragheh, "Atomic Energy Organization of Iran," Presented at the World Nuclear Association Annual Symposium, World Nuclear Association, September 4-6, 2002.
[18] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), November 15, 2004, www.iaea.org.
[19] Bismuth is an element not subject to IAEA safeguards. Irradiation of Bismuth produces Polonim-210. Yossi Melman and Meir Javedanfar, The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran (New York: Basic Books, 2008), p. 140.
[20] Yonah Alexander and Milton M. Hoenig, The New Iranian Leadership (London: Praeger Security International, 2008), p. 143.
[21] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), November 15, 2004, www.iaea.org.

Country Profile
Flag of Iran
Iran

This article provides an overview of Iran's historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

Learn More →

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.