Flag for Iran Iran

Lashkar Ab’ad

  • Location
  • Type
  • Facility Status
    Possibly operational

Want to dive deeper?

Visit the Education Center


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


Uranium is a metal with the atomic number 92. See entries for enriched uranium, low enriched uranium, and highly enriched uranium.
Enriched uranium
Enriched uranium: Uranium with an increased concentration of the isotope U-235, relative to natural uranium. Natural uranium contains 0.7 percent U-235, whereas nuclear weapons typically require uranium enriched to very high levels (see the definitions for “highly enriched uranium” and “weapons-grade”). Nuclear power plant fuel typically uses uranium enriched to 3 to 5 percent U-235, material that is not sufficiently enriched to be used for nuclear weapons.
Isotope: Any two or more forms of an element having identical or very closely related chemical properties and the same atomic number (the same number of protons in their nuclei), but different atomic weights or mass numbers (a different number of neutrons in their nuclei). Uranium-238 and uranium-235 are isotopes of uranium.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
IAEA: Founded in 1957 and based in Vienna, Austria, the IAEA is an autonomous international organization in the United Nations system. The Agency’s mandate is the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, technical assistance in this area, and verification that nuclear materials and technology stay in peaceful use. Article III of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT to accept safeguards administered by the IAEA. The IAEA consists of three principal organs: the General Conference (of member states); the Board of Governors; and the Secretariat. For additional information, see the IAEA.
Nuclear fusion is a type of nuclear reaction in which two atomic nuclei combine to form a heavier nucleus, releasing energy. For a fusion reaction to take place, the nuclei, which are positively charged, must have enough kinetic energy to overcome their electrostatic force of repulsion (also called the Coulomb Barrier). Thermonuclear fusion of deuterium and tritium will produce a helium nucleus and an energetic neutron. This is one basis of the Hydrogen Bomb, which employs a brief, uncontrolled thermonuclear fusion reaction. A great effort is now underway to harness thermonuclear fusion as a source of power.
Highly enriched uranium (HEU)
Highly enriched uranium (HEU): Refers to uranium with a concentration of more than 20% of the isotope U-235. Achieved via the process of enrichment. See entry for enriched uranium.
Dismantlement: Taking apart a weapon, facility, or other item so that it is no longer functional.


  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.


My Resources