During a press conference by the representative office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) held in Washington DC, in mid-August 2002, the existence of a secret nuclear facility at Arak was revealed. It was reported located at the Qatran Workshop near the Qara-Chai river in the Khondaub / Khondab region, in Central Iran, 150 miles south of Tehran. According to the NCRI, a front organization, named the Mesbah Energy Company, had been used to prevent unwanted disclosures. The headquarters of the Mesbah Energy Company were located in Tehran.
As a result of its clandestine nature, the project was reportedly falling outside of the budgetary supervisory purview of Iran's Organization for Planning and Budget and was also not registered officially with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran's (AEOI) Human Resources Office. Instead, bureaucratic operations of the project were directly supervised by the Security and Itelligence office of the AEOI and of the Central Office of Security. According to the NCRI, the project's managing director was Davood Aqajani, its supervisor was Dr. Mohammad Qannadi (Deputy for Production of Nuclear Fuel), and its operational manager was Behman Asgarpour.
The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) on 12 December 2002 released an issue brief expressing concern that Iran was trying to develop "the capability to make separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium, the two main nuclear explosive materials." ISIS acquired satellite imagery of a site near the town of Arak, where a plant was under construction that appeared to be designed to produce heavy water. Heavy water was used to moderate the nuclear chain reaction in one type of nuclear reactor, that could be used either for civilian power production or to produce bomb materials. The nuclear reactor then under construction at Bushehr does not use heavy water, nor did existing Iranian research reactors need it in amounts that would justify construction of such a facility.
According to information provided by the Iranian authorities, the Iranian heavy water reactor program consisted of two different facilities: the heavy water production plant at Arak and the 40 MW(th) IR-40, construction of which was planned to start at Arak in 2004. Although the exact date of the start of construction was unclear, it was evident from commercial satellite imagery that construction was well under way by the early weeks of 2005.
The expected commissioning date of the reactor according to the IAEA was in 2014 in 2004, but changed to 2011 in 2006. In August 2006 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that the reactor was scheduled to be opened in 2009. The Heavy Water Production Plant was also opened in Augst 2006.
According to reports published in Russia, apparently based on information developed by the Russian Federal Security Service, facilities located at Arak were involved in research and development of unguided rockets, and modifications of the Scud-S missile.
As of 11 April 2000, Russian 2-meter resolution KVR-1000 imagery coverage was not available via the SPIN-2 service on TerraServer, nor was archived Space Imaging IKONOS 1-meter imagery of this facility available on the CARTERRAT Archive (subsequently GeoEye).
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