UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Esfahan (Isfahan)
Nuclear Technology Center

Esfahan (also written Isfahan) was said to be the primary location of the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The Nuclear Technology/Research Center in Esfahan (ENTC) was Iran's largest nuclear research center, and was said to employ as many as 3,000 scientists. Iran signed an agreement with France in 1975 to build a nuclear research center in Esfahan, to provide training for personnel to operate the Bushehr reactor (which was at the time being built by a German firm), located at the University of Esfahan. As of 1977 Iran reportedly planned to have at least one reactor and a small French-built fuel reprocessing facility in Isfahan by 1980.

Also associated with the ENTC was the University of Esfahan, with over 50 years of experience, was one of the leading higher educational institutes in Iran. The university embraced seven faculties with thirty departments, as well as an evening school. The University of Esfahan had a unique location at the foot of the Kuh Sofeh (Sofeh mountain) with an area of 4.5 million square meters. Over 1,000 graduate students and 10,000 under-graduate students were trained in various fields of Science, Engineering, Human Science, Economics, Linguistics, Educational Science and Sport Science.

Another facility associated with the ENTC was reportedly opened in 1984, at a location about four kilometers outside the city of Efsahan, and between the villages of Shahrida and Fulashans. As of July 2008 the NIMA GEOnet Names Server (GNS) had no record of either populated place. A populated location named Shahridar existed, but in Iran's southeast in Sistan va Baluchistan province.

Facilities at the ENTC included a Miniaturized Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR), a research reactor of Chinese origin with a capacity of 27 kilowatt thermal (kWt). China and Iran signed a nuclear cooperation agreement on 21 January 1990 that reportedly included the construction of a 27 MW plutonium production reactor at Isfahan. In September 1991 American satellite imagery reportedly detected initial construction activities. The open literature was rather confused as to whether the facility in question was a new 27 MW reactor, or the 27 KW miniature neutron source. Preparatory steps were taken in the mid-1990s to bring the reactor on line, although the reactor remained incomplete as of 1997. A Chinese-supplied heavy-water, zero-power research reactor was also located at the Center. Other extensive construction activity was in progress at the center, although there were contradictory reports as to whether the new buildings are designed for nuclear weapons technologies.

Missile Programs

Esfahan was reportedly the site of Iran's largest missile assembly and production plant. This ballistic missile production facility, built with North Korean assistance, was said to be capable of producing liquid propellants and missile structural components. According to reports published in Russia, apparently based on information developed by the Russian Federal Security Service, Esfahan was involved in the production of Scud-B and Scud-C surface-to-surface missiles by assembling components bought in North Korea and China. According to the 1995 "Jane's Intelligence Review - Special Report No. 6" on Iran's weapons, North Korea helped build a "Scud Mod B" (320 km/1000 kg) assembly plant in Iran in 1988, but the plant apparently never manufactured any missiles. North Korea aided Iran in converting a missile maintenance facility into an assembly plant for the Scud-Cs. Other activities at this facility were reported to include research and development on unguided rockets and production of missile frames.

Between 1988 and 1992 development and production at Efsahan was said to include the Shehab 1 and Nazeat missiles (as of 1988), the Chinese M-11 (negotiations for which reportedly started in 1989), HY-2 anti-ship and addition Chinese M-type missiles (as of 1990-1991), Nodong/Sahab-3 missiles (after a reported deal between Iran and North Korean in 1992). Esfahan was subsequently used for research and development leading to follow on upgrades to the Shahab series and other missiles and rockets.

Chemical and other Military Programs

Esfahan was also said to be one of Iran's major chemical weapons facilities, along with the facilities located at Damghan (said to be the primary production facility), Parchin and Qazvin. Esfahan was home to a number of industrial chemical concerns, including the Poly-Acryl Iran Corporation (PIC) , Linear Alkyl Benzene Complex (LAB), and the central office of Iran's Chemical Industries Group (CIG), a subordinate organization of the state run Defense Industries Organization (DIO). Reports suggested that chemical weapons were shipped to Esfahan in 1993 for fitting into Scud-type missiles developed there. Iran was said in US intelligence reports until 2003 to have been continuing to upgrade and expand its chemical warfare production infrastructure and munitions arsenal, which includes blister, blood, choking agents, and nerve agents.

After 2003, US intelligence reporting began to downplay such previous assertions, suggesting that dual-use facilities could quickly field chemical agents, but were not necessarily active in their production, and that Iran was conducting research that "may have offensive applications." Such reporting called into question the nature of the facilities at Esfahan and elsewhere in Iran.

The Esfahan area was a major center for Iran's advanced defense industry, with plants for munition productions, tank overhaul, and helicopter and fixed wing aircraft maintenance. The main operational facilities for the army's aviation units are located at Esfahan, presumably at Khatamin Air Base northeast of the city.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list