Karaj / Karai / Hashtgerd
The Nuclear Research Center for Agriculture and Medicine in Karaj, 100 miles (160 km) northwest of Tehran, included a building that housed a dosimetry laboratory and an agricultural radiochemistry laboratory. Several other buildings were planned in the 1990s for the facility, including one that was to house a calutron electromagnetic isotope separation system purchased from China for obtaining target materials to be radiated with neutron streams in a 30 million electron volt cyclotron. Construction of the Belgian-supplied Beam Applications cyclotron was completed in January 1995. The calutron building reportedly had a ventilation system and radiation protection facilities that would not readily support work with radioactive material. These facilities did not appear readily applicable to nuclear weapons development or production work, and as of the mid-90s there were no indications of other facilities at the site adapted for work with radioactive materials. The precense of the Meysami Research Center, which does research and development work and produces various chemicals, have also led to unconfirmed reports of facilities at Karaj being used for the development and production of chemical weapons.
During the 1990s the most detailed and apparently least reliable reports of Iran's weapons programs were from the People's Mujahideen (a violent anti-regime group), including the claim that a nuclear reactor was being constructed at Karaj. By early 2003, the quality of reporting by this group was greatly improved.
According to reports published in Russia, apparently based on information developed by the Russian Federal Security Service, a facility at Karaj was also a site for research and development and production of unguided missiles (not further identified). The Defense Technology and Science Research Center, a branch of the Defense Industry Organization, was said to be the primary design center for Iran's missile program. The center, located outside Karaj, also directed various other research efforts, which might be conducted with support from Russian and Chinese experts.
Iran claimed, as the IAEA reported, that it was building a sophisticated enrichment facility at Natanz without experimenting elsewhere first. Iran said this was possible by modelling and simulation. IAEA inspectors were seeking to evaluate a workshop of the Kalaye Electric Company in Tehran, where Iran admited only that some centrifuge components were made. In May 2003 the opposition National Council of Resistance (NRC) suggested taking a closer look at two laboratories near Karaj, west of Tehran. The facilities were two small laboratories that operated as satellite plants to a larger nuclear facility in Natanz, in central Iran. The validity of such accusations were a matter of debate, reinforced by the fact that the US Government classified the NCR as a terrorist group. According to a council official, Ali Safavi, the two labs were intended to function as a backup to the Natanz site in case that facility came under military attack. The labs, he said, were both in the Hasthgerd region near Karaj, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Tehran. He said construction at the sites began in 2000 under strict security.
Some parts for centrifuges to produce weapons-grade enriched uranium were imported, and others built at a plant in Isfahan. They were then tested at the Kalaye plant in Ab-Ali and sent to Natanz for final assembly. Two villages near Natanz, called Lashgarabad and Ramandeh , had uranium enrichment plants hidden behind trees in orchards and were surrounded by security guards. The villages were located near Karaj, which was said to be the center of Iran's missile industry. In case Natanz was bombed, these two sites near Karaj were expected to be used to produce enriched uranium so that the nuclear weapons program of the Iran regime would not be interrupted.
During the follow-up technical discussions with the IAEA, which were held from 10 to 13 July 2003 in Iran, the Agency team inquired as to whether, in accordance with a stated commitment to full transparency, Iran would permit the Agency to visit two locations near Hashtgerd (Lashkarabad and Ramandeh) at which it had been alleged, according to reports in open sources, that nuclear related activities were being or had been conducted. The Iranian authorities indicated that they were not yet willing to accede to the Agency's request to visit the two locations near Hashtgerd. The Iranian authorities indicated that they would like to propose a comprehensive solution to all of the enrichment related issues, but that it would take some time on their side.
On 23 July 2003, the Agency received from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Vice President of Nuclear Safety and Safeguards a letter proposing a timetable for actions to be taken by 15 August 2003 in relation to urgent outstanding issues. In its reply of 25 July 2003, the Agency agreed to send to Iran a team of technical experts, with the understanding that the team would visit the sites near Hashtgerd. This mission took place from 9 through 12 August 2003.
As early as May 2003, the IAEA had requested additional information about two sites near Hashtgerd owned by the AEOI which had been referred to in open source reports as locations allegedly engaged in laser and centrifuge uranium enrichment activities. The IAEA was eventually permitted to visit those locations on 12 August 2003.
Iran had a substantial research and development program on lasers. Iran had stated that as of 2003 it had no program for laser isotope separation.
One of the locations was Ramandeh, which belonged to the AEOI and was part of the Karaj Agricultural and Medical Centre. This location was primarily involved with agricultural studies said to be unrelated to nuclear fuel cycle activities. The other location visited was a laser laboratory at Lashkarabad belonging to the Research and Development Division of the AEOI. During the visit, Iranian officials stated that the laboratory had originally been devoted to laser fusion research and laser spectroscopy, but that the focus of the laboratory had been changed, and the equipment not related to current projects, such as a large imported vacuum vessel, had been moved. Among other activities observed by the IAEA were the production and testing of copper vapor lasers of up to 100 watts. However, there appeared to be no activities directly related to laser spectroscopy or enrichment being carried out at the laboratory. The Iranian authorities were asked to confirm that there had not been in the past any activities related to uranium laser enrichment at this location or at any other location in Iran. The IAEA requested permission to take environmental samples at the laboratory, which the Iranian authorities have undertaken to consider.
During discussions that took place in Iran from 2 to 3 October 2003, in response to IAEA questioning, the Iranian authorities acknowledged that Iran had imported and installed TNRC laser related equipment from two countries: in 1992, a laser spectroscopy laboratory intended for the study of laser induced fusion, optogalvanic phenomena and photoionization spectroscopy; and in 2000, a large vacuum vessel, subsequently stored at Karaj, for use in the spectroscopic studies referred to in the previous paragraph.
On 6 October 2003, the inspectors also visited a warehouse in the Karaj Agricultural and Medical Centre of the AEOI, where a large imported vacuum vessel and associated hardware were stored. The Iranian authorities stated that the equipment had been imported in 2000, that it had never been used, and that it had now been packed for shipment back to the manufacturer, since the contract related to its supply had been terminated by the foreign partner in 2000. The inspectors were informed that later during their visit to Tehran the equipment related to the laboratory imported in 1992 would be made available for examination and environmental sampling and the individuals involved in the projects would be available for interviews. However, these interviews and the presentation of the equipment were deferred by Iran.
Iran stated that uranium laser enrichment experiments had been conducted between October 2002 and January 2003 using previously undeclared natural uranium metal imported from one of the other suppliers. According to Iranian authorities, all of the equipment was dismantled in May 2003 and transferred to Karaj for storage together with the uranium metal. The equipment and material were presented to Agency inspectors at Karaj on 28 October 2003.
As of November 2003, the Iran had still failed to provide design information for the laser laboratories at TNRC and Lashkarabad, and locations where resulting wastes were processed and stored, including the waste storage facility at Karaj.
On 9 March 2004 Alireza Jafarzadeh, who disclosed in August 2002 Iran's facilities at Natanz and Arak, said Iranian leaders decided at a meeting to seek an atom bomb "at all costs" and begin enriching uranium at secret plants. "They set a timetable to get a bomb by the end of 2005 at the latest," the former spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran said. "They will heavily rely on smaller secret enrichment sites at Karaj, Esfahan and at other places."
In a comprehensive report of the Director General to the Board of Governors of the IAEA, dated 15 November 2004, it was concluded that Iran had failed in a number of instances over an extended period of time to meet its obligations under its Safeguards Agreement, including a failure to declare a nuclear waste storage facility at Karaj. Investigations by the IAEA during 2005 found evidence of highly enriched uranium particles at the waste storage facility, and potential evidence of plutonium production. Iran claimed in information provided in 2005 and again in 2006 that this was the result of contamination of material that had come from the Tehran Research Reactor. The IAEA requested additional documentation in 2007 to confirm these statements.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|