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Iran: Nuclear Facilities
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Nuclear Issues > Nuclear Facilities


International concerns have focused not on the Bushehr site but on several other nuclear facilities, whose existence Iran confirmed only in 2002, after it was revealed that Pakistan’s leading nuclear scientist, A. Q. Khan, had provided Iran with crucial information on making nuclear weapons. Iran disclosed its previously undocumented facilities in a report to the IAEA in 2002, then agreed to open the sites for IAEA inspection in 2003 and 2004. According to the IAEA, several of these facilities were involved, or could be involved, in the nuclear fuel cycle, thus requiring IAEA monitoring to ensure that their products are not diverted for use in the manufacture of weapons-grade fuel. Concerns about such diversion were not allayed when the IAEA discovered in 2005 that Iran had partial documentation for preparation of the explosive core of an atomic bomb.

It is known that Esfahan, at the center of the Iran nuclear controversy, has reactors designated for university research and the burning of highly enriched uranium, as well as a Chinese-made uranium hexafluoride conversion facility. (Uranium hexafluoride is a key compound in uranium enrichment both for energy and weapons production.) The Esfahan reactors serve the Nuclear Technology Research Center, Iran’s largest nuclear research facility. Besides the threat posed by the conversion facility, Esfahan attracted attention because its scientists may have requested military-grade plutonium from China in the 1990s and because a portion of the nuclear facility is believed to be concealed underground, beyond observation by the IAEA.

Moallem Kaleyah, the primary fissile material production center in Iran, has been under intense international scrutiny and heavily guarded by the IAEA in 2006–7. Previously, the center, strategically located in a mountainous region northwest of Tehran, had been suspected as a probable facility for the development of nuclear weapons.

In 2005 a heavy water manufacturing facility was in the last stages of construction near Arak, southwest of Tehran. The heavy water could supply a reactor manufacturing bomb-grade plutonium. Although existence of the Arak facility per se was not a violation of international rules on nonproliferation, its potential role prompted an international call for construction stoppage after the site was discovered in 2002.

The Military Balance, published annually by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and similar publications such as the yearbook of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), remain the best sources for recent data on the size, budget, and equipment of the armed forces of Iran. Other sources provide information on aspects of complex national security issues. Iran’s Security Policy in the Post-Revolutionary Era, by Daniel Byman, Shahram Chubin, Anoushiravan Ehteshami, and Jerrold Green, is of great value, as are Anthony Cordesman’s Iran’s Military Forces in Transition and Iran’s Evolving Military Forces. Three recent works of particular value are Iran: Time for a New Approach, a task force report of the Council on Foreign Relations by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Robert Gates, and Suzanne Maloney; a journal article by Steven R. Ward, “The Continuing Evolution of Iran’s Military Doctrine,” which provides an extensive discussion of the motivations and conditions that shaped military doctrine in the early 2000s; and Mehdi Moslem’s Factional Politics in Post-Khomeini Iran. Although somewhat outdated, Wilfried Buchta’s Who Rules Iran? The Structure of Power in the Islamic Republic remains a unique work on the anatomy of political power in Iran. Kenneth M. Pollack’s study of U.S.-Iranian relations, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America, also is of interest.

In regard to Iran’s military industry and weapons technology and other security-related matters, the analysis and data provided by the Global Security Web site and its online library on Iran are most helpful for current conditions and updates. Similar information is provided by the on-line database of the Institute for Science and International Security.

In the absence of daily access to Iranian newspapers and journals, one should consider sources in Persian (Farsi), including the Islamic Republic News Agency and other Iranian journals and newspapers available on the Internet. Most, if not all, Persian sources available on the Internet are free and do not require a subscription, although in many cases archive availability is limited. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.).

Data as of 2008

Last Updated: January 2008

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Iran was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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