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Iranian nuclear imports

by Andrew Koch and Jeanette Wolf
Center for Nonproliferation Studies

Potential Applications

The Argentine Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEA) signed a contract to supply 115.8kg of 20 percent enriched uranium in 1988 but the nuclear fuel was not delivered until 1993. 1.


1988– 93  University of  Tehran Nuclear  Research Center  (TNRC)  Nuclear fuel 
Applied Research Institute (INVAP) concluded  contracts with Iran to: 
· Supply a pilot-scale mill (canceled); 
· Build a fuel fabrication pilot-plant (canceled); 
· Convert the 5MWt research reactor at the TNRC from using 93 percent enriched uranium fuel to burning 20 percent enriched uranium. 2 





Milling  Fuel fabrication 

Research reactor 

INVAP also discussed supplying a heavy water production pilot-plant, but talks were canceled. 3  1992 TNRC Heavy water 
Iranian officials requested that Argentina supply hot cells; the request was denied. 4 TNRC Plutonium reprocessing
Ion Beam Applications supplied a 30MeV cyclotron. 5 1991  Karaj  Calutron uranium enrichment R&D
China supplied two subcritical reactors; an open tank facility and a graphite moderated reactor. 6 Completed in 1992 Isfahan Research reactor
China built and installed a small (1mA) calutron. 7 1992 Karaj Calutron R& D China supplied a 27kWt miniature neutron source reactor (MNSR), 900g of highly enriched uranium  (HEU) fuel, and heavy water. 8 1994 Isfahan Research reactor 
China built a heavy water, zero power, research reactor. 9  1995 Isfahan Research reactor 
Negotiations for the supply of a 30MWt heavy water research reactor were canceled due to technical and financial problems. 10 1991– 92 Isfahan  Research reactor 
China's Qinshan Nuclear Power Company and the Shanghai Nuclear Research and Design Institute agreed to build two 300MW pressurized water reactors (PWRs) in Iran. The deal is on hold. 11  Agreement  reached in  September  1992  Site of proposed  reactors changed  from Darkhovin  to Bushehr  Power reactors 
Iran plans to build a uranium hexafluoride (UF6) conversion plant with Chinese assistance. Tehran expects the plant to become operational after 2000, but China appears to have canceled the deal. 12 1996  Isfahan  UF6 conversion 
Iran acquired at least one copper-vapor laser from China. 13  1994   TNRC's  Ibn-e Heysam  Research and 
Laboratory  Complex 

Laser uranium enrichment 
research and development 

Iran acquired an unknown quantity of tributylphosphate (TBP), and may have received data on plutonium separation, from China. 14  1994 TNRC Plutonium reprocessing 
The Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Plasma Physics built and installed a tokamak fusion research reactor. 15  1993– 94  Azad University  Data potentially applicable 
for designing 
thermonuclear weapons 
The Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology (BRIUG) assisted Iran with uranium exploration. 16  Yazd  Uranium mining 1 
Czech Republic
Skoda and Iran discuss the provision of equipment for the Bushehr nuclear power plant; the deal was canceled in 1994. 17 1993  Bushehr Power reactors
Iran imported computer-numerical-control (CNC) lathes and vertical turning machines from the Czechoslovak firm trojimport. Other foreign firms are establishing turn-key machine-tool factories, due to be completed in the late 1990s. 18  1982– 83 Weaponization, calutron  manufacturing, gas  centrifuge manufacturing 
Iran loans Eurodif $1 billion for the uranium enrichment plant at Tricastin. Iran was expected to buy 10 percent of Eurodif's three percent enriched uranium fuel. 19
The International Commerce Commission (ICC) ruled that France must repay Iran the $1 billion and that Tehran would retain a small share in Eurodif. France has said it would not sell Iran enriched uranium. 20


Nuclear fuel
Framatome signed a contract to build two 950MW PWRs in Iran; the deal was canceled in 1979. 21  1974– 79 Darkhovin (Karun)  Power reactors
Kraftwerke Union (KWU) began building two 1, 300MWe reactors, but stopped construction in 1979. 22 1974– 79 Bushehr  Power reactors
Leybold negotiated to sell a vacuum arc furnace to Iran. 23 1991 Sharif University Fuel fabrication and weaponization
Leybold sold Iran vacuum pumps. 24  1990– 91  Sharif University  Gas centrifuge and calutron component
Magnetfabrik Bonn supplied Iran with ferretic ring magnets, but denies they have nuclear applications. 25  1993 Sharif University  Gas centrifuge component
Sharif University approached the firm Thyssen about purchasing specialized ring magnets, but were refused. 26 1991  Sharif University  Gas centrifuge component
The firm Karl Schenck of Darmstadt supplied Iran with at least one balancing machine. 27  1991 Sharif University  Gas centrifuge component
Iranian officials signed a letter of intent pledging an interest in buying the German firm Sket Magdeburg, a machine-tool manufacturer. Tehran wants to purchase the firm either as a whole or in parts. 28 1996 Weaponization, gas
centrifuge manufacturing, calutron production
India discussed building a 10MWt research reactor but canceled the negotiations. 29  1991  Moallem Kalayeh  Research reactor
Italy's Ansaldo, a division of Finmeccanica, was contracted by KWU to supply the Bushehr reactors with eight steam condensers; the shipment was blocked indefinitely during the Iran-Iraq war. 30
In 1993, Italian customs in Porto Marghera seized the steam condensers as they were bound for Iran. 31





Power reactor

Power reactor

According to German intelligence, Pakistan may have re-exported URENCO centrifuge design information to Iran. 32 Sharif University  Gas centrifuge production
Iran tried unsuccessfully to buy nuclear power reactor components from the unfinished Zarnowiece VVER-440 plant. 33 1994  Bushehr  Power reactor
As part of the Russian-Iranian nuclear accord, Moscow agreed to: · Complete the Bushehr VVER-1, 000MW reactor (work ongoing)

· Build a 30– 50MW light water research reactor (canceled)
· Deliver 2,000 tons of natural uranium (status uncertain)
· Construct a uranium mine; limited assistance has been provided, although it is not clear whether Moscow was fully aware of the activities

· Negotiate the construction of a centrifuge plant (canceled)

· Build an APWS-40 desalination plant made by OKBM Mechanical Engineering (status uncertain). 34

Signed in
January 1995


Power reactor
Research reactor
Raw uranium Mining and milling

Uranium enrichment
Small reactor

Italian customs officials seized ultrasonic test equipment that was being shipped from Slovakia to Iran through Italy. 35 1995 Test welding in reactors, nuclear fuel, and gas centrifuges
South Africa
According to European officials, South Africa supplied Iran with a large quantity of uranium concentrate (yellowcake). In 1996, South African officials denied the allegations, saying it considered providing uranium to Iran but canceled the deal. 36 1988– 89  Milled uranium
AGIE and Charmilles Technologies sent electrical discharge machinery (EDM's) to Iran. 37  1993 Sharif University Gas centrifuge manufacture and nuclear fuel fabrication
Turboatom signed a contract with Russia's Zarubezhatomenergostroy to supply two turbines for the Bushehr reactor; the deal was canceled in 1997. 38 1996  Bushehr  Power reactor
United Kingdom 
Air Products, British Nuclear Fuels, Fisons, and Leeds & Northtrup allegedly sold Iran fluorine gas, a precursor for making UF6 gas. 39 1991  Sharif University  UF6 production
High-speed cameras and flash x-ray equipment may have been delivered to Iran. 40 TNRC? Weaponization British customs seized 55kg of maraging steel that was bound for Iran. 41  1996 Sharif University?  Gas centrifuge production
United States
 The U. S. supplied Iran with a 5MWt pool-type research reactor, hot cells, and HEU fuel until 1979. 42 1967 TNRC Research reactor, plutonium reprocessing, and nuclear fuel
Reza (Ray) Amiri and Mohammed (Don) Danesh were indicted for sending oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, and pulse generators to Iran. 44 April 1989 to
October 1990
Sharif University? Weaponization and gas centrifuge production 3

1. Claude van England, "Iran Defends Its Pursuit of Nuclear Technology," The Christian Science Monitor, 18 February 1993,
2. "INVAP Fears Bankruptcy after Shipment Is Halted," Nuclear Engineering International 37 (June 1992), p. 12; "Argentina
Strikes a Deal with Iran," Nuclear Engineering International 32 (July 1987), p. 4; Richard Kessler, "General Atomic, INVAP Explore Research Reactor, Nuclear Ties," Nucleonics Week, 4 April 1992, p. 15.
3. Mark Hibbs, "Iran Sought Sensitive Nuclear Supplies from Argentina, China," Nucleonics Week, 24 September 1992, pp.2-3.
4. Ibid.
5. Het Belang van Limburg, 12 February 1992, pp. 1, 4; in "Belgian Cyclotron May Have Nuclear Uses," Proliferation Issues, March 3, 1992,  pp. 39-40.
6. Nuclear Engineering International, World Nuclear Handbook 1996 (Surrey, U. K.: Reed Business Publishing, 1995), p. 105; Mark Hibbs, "U. S. Warned Not to Try Using IAEA to Isolate or Destabilize Iran, Nucleonics Week, 8 October 1992, p. 10.

7 Ibid.
8 Hibbs, "U. S. Warned Not to Try Using IAEA to Isolate or Destabilize Iran;" Nuclear Engineering International, World Nuclear Handbook 1996, p. 105; "Research Reactors," Nuclear Review (April 1996), p. 17; David Schwarzbach, Iran's Nuclear Program: Energy or Weapons? (Washington, D. C.: Natural Resources Defense Council, 7 September 1995), p. 6; "Rafsanjani's Bomb," Mednews, 8 June 1992, p. 3.
9 Mark Hibbs and Neel Patri, "U. S. to Ask New Delhi to Back Off on Research Reactor Offer to Iran," Nucleonics Week, 21 November 1991, p. 2; Nuclear Engineering International, World Nuclear Handbook 1996, p. 105.
10 Steve Coll, "U. S. Halted Nuclear Bid by Iran," The Washington Post, 11 November 1992, p. A30; Mark Hibbs, "Sensitive Reactor Deal May Hinge on MFN for China," Nucleonics Week, October 1, 1992, p. 5; Robert Shuey and Shirley A. Kahn, "Chinese Missile and Nuclear roliferation: Issues for Congress," CRS Issue Brief, 12 February 1996, p. 11.
11. Mark Hibbs and Margaret L. Ryan, "Official Says China Developing Ability to Supply Entire PWRs," Nucleonics Week, 1 October 1992, p. 4; "Iran Goes Shopping for Nuclear Technology," Nuclear Engineering International 37 (November 1992), p. 2; Shuey and Kahn, "Chinese Missile and Nuclear Proliferation: Issues for Congress," p. 12; Shirley A. Kahn, "Chinese Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Current Policy Issues," CRS Issue Brief, 17 October 1996, p. 4.
12. Mark Hibbs, "Iran Told IAEA It Will Build a UF6 Plant at Isfahan," NuclearFuel, 16 December 1996, p. 1; Mark Hibbs, "Iran Agrees to Monitoring under 93+ 2, Part I Safeguards," NuclearFuel, 13 January 1997, p. 3.
13. Mark Hibbs, "German-U. S. Nerves Frayed over Nuclear Ties to Iran," NuclearFuel, 14 March 1994, p. 10.
14 Ibid.; Anthony Cordesman and Ahmed Hashim, Iran: Dilemmas of Dual Containment (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press,(1997), p. 297.
15 Cheng Yan, "China's Nuclear Fusion Technology Moves into International Arena," Zhongguo Kexue Bao [Chinese Science
News], 8 March 1995, p. 1; in JPRS-CST-95-006 (8 March 1995).
16 U. S. Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Testimony of Gary Milholin before the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, 6 May 1997.
17 CTA, 27 October 1995; in FBIS-EEU-95-211-A (10 October 1995).
18 John Shields, Profiles of Industrial and Scientific Activity in Iran (McLean, VA: Science Applications International Corporation, December 1992), p. G-11; "Success of Czechoslovak Machines in Iran," Czechoslovak Heavy Industry, March 1984, p. 37.
19 Dominique Leglu, Liberation, 27 April 1984, p. 23; in "German-Built Power Plant, Pakistani Uranium May Equal Iranian Bomb," Worldwide Report, 15 June 1984, pp. 1-3; Charles Hoots, "Iran and France Close to End of Nuclear Dispute, but Not Yet," Nucleonics Week, 18 July 1991, p. 6.
20 Scheherazade Daneshku, "Bakhtiar Murder No Bar to Cordial Ties," The Financial Times, 17 October 1991, p. 4.
21 Leonard S. Spector, Nuclear Ambitions (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1990), p. 204; Nuclear Engineering International,
World Nuclear Handbook 1996, p. 22; Mark Hibbs, "Russian, Chinese Reactors Might Be Sited at Bushehr," Nucleonics Week, 14 October 1993, p. 9.
22 Michael Eisenstadt, Iranian Military Power: Capabilities and Intentions (Washington, D. C.: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1996), p. 14; Schwarzbach, Iran's Nuclear Program: Energy or Weapons?, p. 6.
23 Mark Hibbs, "IAEA Inspectors Revisit Iran: 'Nothing on the Ground, ' U. S. Says," Nucleonics Week, 14 March 1994, p. 7.
24 Herbert Krosney, Deadly Business (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1993), p. 265; "Iran and the Bomb," FRONTLINE, Show # 1116, 13 April 1993; BBC Panorama, March 6, 1993; in Suppliers of Dual-Use Technology to Iran (Washington, D. C.:  US House of Representatives, Subcommittee on International Security, International Organizations, and Human Rights, Committee on Foreign Affairs, 13 September 1993), p. 11.
25 Krosney, Deadly Business, p. 264; "Iran and the Bomb," FRONTLINE; Mark Hibbs, "Siemens Venture Believed Used in Pakistan Centrifuge Quest," NuclearFuel, 28 August 1995, p. 14.
26 Krosney, Deadly Business, p. 264; "Iran and the Bomb," FRONTLINE; Eisenstadt, Iranian Military Power: Capabilities and Intentions, p. 106.
27 Krosney, Deadly Business, p. 265; "Iran and the Bomb," FRONTLINE.
28 "Tehran to Buy German M-Tool Maker," The Iran Brief, 6 January 1997, p. 8.
29 "A Bomb for the Ayatollahs?," The Middle East (October 1992), p. 23; "Iran's Nuclear Ambitions," Jane's Intelligence Review: Special Report No. 6, p. 13; Eisenstadt, Iranian Military Power: Capabilities and Intentions, p. 13.
30 "Briefly… Italy: Demonstrators Protest Iran Shipment," Nucleonics Week, 29 October 1987, p. 13.
31 Giorgio Cecchetti, "Nuclear Consignment Bound for Iran Seized," La Republica, 12 November 1993; in JPRS-TND-93-037 (8 December 1993), p. 54.
32 Mark Hibbs, "Iran Says It Has No Plans to Acquire Enrichment Program or Plan," NuclearFuel, November 23, 1992, p.5.
33 "While Western Governments…," PPNN News Briefs (Fourth Quarter 1994), p. 16; Eisenstadt, Iranian Military Power:
Capabilities and Intentions, p. 108.
34 David Albright, "An Iranian Bomb?," The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 51 (March-August 1995), p. 22; "Iran's Odd Reactor," Foreign Report, 15 June 1995; R. Jeffrey Smith, "Administration Concerned About Russia's Nuclear Cooperation with Iran," The Washington Post, 3 July 1997, p. A7.
35 Bruce Johnson, "Iran Bound N-Plant Parts," The Daily Telegraph, 1 March 1995; Eisenstadt, Iranian Military Power: Capabilities and Intentions, p. 109.
36 SAPA News Agency, 21 February 1996; in "South Africa: Energy Minister Says No Uranium Sent to Iran in Last Five Years,"
BBC Monitoring Summary of World Broadcasts (2 February 1996); Edyth Bulbring, The Sunday Times, 20 August 1995; in FBIS-TAC-95-016-L (20 August 1995); Mark Hibbs, "Bonn Will Decline Teheran Bid to Resuscitate Bushehr Project," Nucleonics Week, 2 May 1991, p. 17; Eisenstadt, Iranian Military Power: Capabilities and Intentions, p. 108.
37 Krosney, Deadly Business, p. 277.
38 Intelnews, 25 January 1996; in FBIS-SOV-96-018 (25 January 1996); Michael R. Gordon, "Ukraine Decides Not to Supply
Key Parts for Iranian Nuclear Reactor," New York Times, 18 April 1997, p. A6.
39 Eisenstadt, Iranian Military Power: Capabilities and Intentions, p. 109; Suppliers of Dual-Use Technology to Iran, p. 24-25.
40 Eisenstadt, Iranian Military Power: Capabilities and Intentions, p. 109.
41 Con Coughlin, "Britain Seizes Bomb-Grade Steel Cargo," The Washington Times, 11 August 1996, p. A8.
42 Eisenstadt, Iranian Military Power: Capabilities and Intentions, p. 11; Schwarzbach, Iran's Nuclear Program: Energy or Weapons?, pp. 5-6, 52.
43 Spector, Nuclear Ambitions, p. 207.
44 James V. Grimaldi and David Greewald, "Some Gear Legally Shipped by Firm Went to Agency Linked to Iranian Military," The Orange County Register, 30 August 1991, p. D6; Marcy Gordon, "U. S. Exported Software, Parts to Iran, Syria, Records Show," The San Francisco Chronicle, 8 August 1991, p. A2. 5