United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Rouhani on Freedom, Economy & Nukes

            On April 29, President Hassan Rouhani defended his administration’s foreign and domestic policies in a primetime address on state television. He dismissed hardliners who have opposed his outreach to the West and economic reforms that have recently raised prices. Rouhani said that he is proud of his government for creating an atmosphere in which citizens can criticize policies – “even though sometimes [they] make a mountain out of a molehill.” The president was also upbeat about prospects for nuclear negotiations and the lifting of international sanctions. The following are excerpted remarks from his semi-official Twitter account.

Nuclear Negotiations and Sanctions



Foreign Affairs







US Targets Weapons, Oil Sanctions Evaders

      On April 29, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned two individuals and nine entities for evading oil sanctions and aiding Tehran’s ballistic missile program. Several of the front companies were connected to Karl Lee, who was designated several years ago for procuring missile parts for Iran. “As we have made clear, we will continue vigorously to enforce our sanctions, even as we explore the possibility of a comprehensive deal addressing Iran’s nuclear program,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. “These actions are intended to deter future sanctions evasion and prevent Iran from procuring sensitive technologies.” The following is an excerpt from the press release.

Iran’s Missile Proliferation Activities
Treasury is sanctioning the following entities pursuant to E.O. 13382, which, among other things, targets proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their support networks.
Karl Lee (aka Li Fangwei) Front Companies
Treasury designated eight China-based front companies for acting for or on behalf of Karl Lee, a known proliferator for Iran’s ballistic missile program.  Karl Lee (aka Li Fangwei) was designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 in April 2009, as the commercial manager of LIMMT Economic and Trade Company Ltd.  Additionally, several aliases for LIMMT were also identified in April 2009.  LIMMT Economic and Trade Company Ltd. was designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 in June 2006 for providing material support to Iran's ballistic missile program. 
Following Sino Metallurgy and Minmetals Industry Co. Ltd.’s 2009 designation as an alias for LIMMT, Karl Lee directed companies with which LIMMT had contracts to send funds to other Karl Lee front companies, including Sinotech Industry Co., Ltd. and MTTO Industry and Trade Limited.   
Lee has also used Success Move Ltd. and Sinotech Industry Co., Ltd. in his dealings with Iran and to receive funds from Iran for the purchase of goods.
Lee manages Sinotech Dalian Carbon and Graphite Manufacturing Corporation, which along with another front company, Dalian Zhongchuang Char-White Co., Ltd., has been used by Lee to send at least 23 separate shipments to Iran.  Sinotech Dalian Carbon and Graphite Manufacturing Corporation also uses MTTO Industry & Trade Limited and Karat Industry Co. Ltd., as front companies.
Dalian Zhenghua Maoyi Youxian Gongsi (aka Dalian Zenghua Trading Co., Ltd.) is also a front company Lee uses in his financial dealings with Iran.  Lee entered into a contract with a Chinese manufacturer in which the Chinese manufacturer agreed to provide an aramid fiber production line to Dalian Zenghua Trading Co., Ltd.  After the contract between Dalian Zenghua Trading Co., Ltd. and the Chinese manufacturer was signed, Lee used a bank account previously associated with Karat Industry Co., Ltd., to transmit the down payment for the Iranian company's aramid fiber production line.
Since 2013, Karl Lee has also used and continues to use Tereal Industry & Trade Limited as a front company for his dealings with Iran.
Support to Iranian Oil Sanctions Evaders
Saeed Al Aqili, Al Aqili Group LLC, and Anwar Kamal Nizami
Treasury is designating Saeed Al Aqili, the co-owner, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Al Aqili Group LLC pursuant to E.O. 13645 for providing support in connection with deceptive oil deals for Iran.  Saeed Al Aqili uses his companies to assist Iran in selling oil in evasion of sanctions.  Treasury is also identifying Al Aqili Group LLC for being owned by Saeed Al Aqili.  Activities of Al Aqili Group LLC include arranging oil sales for the IRGC and facilitating the circumvention of oil sanctions by disguising the oil’s origin.  Saeed Al Aqili also regularly does business in Iran and has conducted financial transactions with, or on behalf of, the Central Bank of Iran and Bank Melli Iran.
Saeed Al Aqili also assists Seyed Seyyedi’s group of front companies.  Saeed Al Aqili and his representatives, working in conjunction with representatives of Sima General Trading, gave Seyyedi the authority to manage and conduct banking activities on behalf of KASB International LLC.  Seyyedi and a network of his affiliated companies, including KASB International LLC, were identified pursuant to E.O. 13599 in September 2013 for providing support to Government of Iran entities, including NIOC, the Naftiran Intertrade Company (NICO) and Sima General Trading.  Sima General Trading was identified in March 2013 pursuant to E.O. 13599 for providing support to Government of Iran entities.  KASB International LLC, also known as First Furat Trading LLC, was one of the Al Aqili Group’s subsidiary companies.
Anwar Kamal Nizami is a Dubai-based Pakistani financial facilitator for KASB International LLC and is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13645.  In his role as a financial expert, he manages the banking relationships and overall finances of KASB International LLC, which is not only affiliated with Saeed Al Aqili and Al Aqili Group LLC, but also with Seyyedi and his Iranian oil evasion network.  Nizami also works for Sima General Trading.
Identifying Information
Name: Mohamed Saeed Al Aqili
AKA: Mohamed Saeed Mohamed Al Aqili
DOB: 23 July 1955
POB: Dubai, UAE
Passport Number: A2599829
UAE ID Number: 784-1955-8497107-1
Title: Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Al Aqili Group LLC
Name: Al Aqili Group LLC
AKA: Al Aqili Group of Companies
Address: Oud Metha Tower, 10th Floor, PO Box 1496, Dubai UAE
Website: www.aqili.com 
E-mail: info@aqili.com 
Name: Anwar Kamal Nizami
DOB: 19 April 1980
Nationality: Pakistani
Passport Number: AE9855872
Title: Accounts Manager, First Furat Trading LLC
Name: Sinotech Industry Co., Ltd.
Address: No. 190 Changjiang Road, Dalian City, China
Name: MTTO Industry and Trade Limited
Address: No. 9 Hongji Street, Xi Gang District, Dalian City, China
Name: Success Move Ltd.
Address: No. 1109 Zhongshan Road, Dalian, China
Name: Sinotech Dalian Carbon and Graphite Manufacturing Corporation
Address: Dalian, China
Name: Dalian Zhongchuang Char-White Co., Ltd.
Address: 2501-2508 Yuexiu Mansion, No. 82 Xinkai Road, Dalian, Liaoning Province, 11601
Name: Karat Industry Co., Ltd.
Address: No. 110 Baiyun Street, Dalian, Liaoning, China
Name: Dalian Zhenghua Maoyi Youxian Gongsi
AKA: Dalian Zenghua Trading Co., Ltd. 
Address: Dalian, China
Name: Tereal Industry and Trade Limited
Address: No. 9 Hongji Street, Xi Gang District, Dalian City, China

Western Countries Flood Tehran

            More than two dozen delegations of lawmakers, officials and businesspeople have visited Iran since the interim nuclear agreement was brokered in November 2013. Many Western countries and South Korea are particularly hopeful that Iran and the world’s six major powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – will find a comprehensive solution to the nuclear dispute. So politicians and investors have traveled to Tehran to begin renewing ties in anticipation of an agreement. In an April 9 interview, President Rouhani said that visits by “hundreds” of entrepreneurs and international companies were a sign of optimism for Iran's economy and relations with other countries. The following is a chronological rundown of delegations that have visited since November 2013.


      On April 28, Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Samuel Santos Lopez (left) arrived in Tehran with a high-ranking delegation to strengthen bilateral relations. Lopez met with President Rouhani on the first day of his trip. “Detailed information about proper grounds in Nicaragua for the presence of private sector and Iranian investors must be offered to them,” said Rouhani. On April 29, Santos met with Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, who pointed out “numerous opportunities for cooperation between the two countries in economic, industrial and agricultural sectors.”

United Kingdom

            On April 27, senior U.K. diplomat Simon Gass visited Tehran to discuss boosting ties and re-opening diplomatic missions. London withdrew its staff in November 2011 after protestors surrounded the Tehran embassy after Britain tightened sanctions.  Gass, the former ambassador to Tehran and the British representative to the P5+1, is the highest ranking diplomat to visit Tehran since 2011.
            Britain’s Foreign Office described the trip as “the next stage in the step-by-step approach to improving relations.” Gass held separate meetings with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for American and European Affairs Majid Takht Ravanchi and with Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Seyed Abbas Araqchi. Araqchi and Gass discussed the ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers.


            Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz arrived in Tehran on April 26 for a two-day visit. He said that Vienna is ready to enhance economic and cultural cooperation with Tehran in a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Kurz also expressed hope for the success of nuclear negotiations in a meeting with Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani. 



            On April 22, a French parliamentary delegation led by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Philippe Marini arrived in Tehran for a week-long visit. The Iranian parliament’s Planning and Budget Commission chief, Gholamreza Meshabi Moghaddam, had issued the invitation to his counterparts. The objective of the trip was to assess economic opportunities in Iran and improve bilateral ties, according to Marini.


      On April 22, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs (left) arrived in Tehran with a business delegation for a two-day visit. Rinkēvičs became the first high-ranking Latvian to visit the Islamic Republic. He met with President Hassan Rouhani (right), Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, Senior Advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati and Minister of Transportation Abbas Ahmad Akhoundi. Rinkēvičs expressed Riga’s eagerness to expand economic and cultural ties with Tehran to Rouhani. The foreign minister also told the president that he hoped for increased E.U.-Iran cooperation after Latvia takes over the rotating E.U. chairmanship next year.
            On April 16, a six-member delegation of Swiss lawmakers arrived in Tehran for a four-day visit. The group included Co-chairman of the Iran-Switzerland Parliamentary Friendship Group Jean-François Rime and Swiss Federal Assembly member Luzi Stamm.  "Iran is a big country that plays an influential and undeniable role in the region's future,"  Stamm said in a meeting with Iranian parliamentarians.


            On April 9, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev met with Iranian President Rouhani to discuss boosting ties between their two countries. Azeri and Iranian ministers signed three memorandums of understanding and one agreement on tourism, cultural exchanges, emergency preparedness and economic development.



           On March 16, Belarus Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei arrived in Tehran for a two-day visit. On the first day, Makei met discussed ways to boost bilateral trade with his Iranian counterpart Foreign Minister Zarif and Iranian business leaders.

            On March 17, Makei met with President Rouhani, who said Iran is ready to export engineering services to Belarus. Makei also met with former President and Chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani , Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani and Minister of Industry and Mines Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh.


      On March 16 and 17, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Aslov met with President Rouhani, Foreign Minister Zarif and  Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani. Rouhani said the two countries “enjoy great potential to boost the level of political, economic and cultural cooperation between the two countries.” Aslov invited Rouhani to Dushanbe later in 2014.


            Zarif told Aslov that Iran is ready to help Tajikistan fight terrorism and that extremism is a danger to both countries. Aslov also congratulated Zarif on Iran’s recent “diplomatic victories” on the nuclear dispute.  "The government of Tajikistan is determined to solve the problems with which the Iranian firms are entangled in our country, and favor commissioning the Iranian companies to implement development projects in Tajikistan,” Aslov told Larijani.


           On March 15, Greek Vice President and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos arrived in Tehran for a two-day visit. He discussed the nuclear negotiations and bilateral trade with President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif. Venizelos also met with former President and Chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Secretary General of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani.
           Rouhani described relations between Iran and Greece as “deep-rooted” and “historical” while emphasizing the “vast potential to strengthen economic ties between the two countries.” “Greece will always remain Iran’s gateway to Europe,” the Greek foreign minister added. 

European Union

            E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton arrived in Tehran on March 8, marking the first visit by an E.U. high representative since 2008. The primary aim of the visit was to discuss new opportunities for improving Iran’s relationship with the European Union. Ashton discussed trade, human rights, the Syrian conflict and other pressing issues in her meetings with President Hassan Rouhani, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani and Foreign Minister Zarif. She also discussed the difficult road ahead to a final nuclear agreement.

            The following are excerpted remarks from Ashton's statement after the visit.

            “The main purpose of the visit was to, as E.U. High Representative, have a chance to talk to Iran about the potential for the relationship that we can have in the future. Many European Union countries’ ministers are coming here. Many have historical links and this was about joining up the whole of the EU in thinking through the issues that we would want to discuss. Not surprisingly there was a big focus on human rights: I met with women activists on International Women’s Day and talked to them about the situation that women find themselves in and some of the work that these women are engaged in, from journalists to those involved with Afghan refugees, people working across the spectrum of civil society and the importance of civil society.
            “And then thinking about some of the issues in the region, for example the real challenges of the drug trade from Afghanistan. Iran faces real difficulties there. There are ways in which we could work together to try and address that. And then looking into the future, the possibilities of all sorts of dialogues and discussions; again an example would be the environment. So that sort of group of different issues, things we may be able to talk about now because they’re important to the European Union to do now, but most importantly things that could be, depending on what happens with the nuclear talks -inevitably that’s been a backdrop to the conversations I’ve had.
            “One of the things that’s been very clear is the support that is given across the political spectrum for the work that is going on currently in Vienna to try and move forward on a comprehensive [nuclear] agreement. That does not mean that we’ll get an agreement; it does not mean that people are committed to any possible outcome at this stage, but I have had a real sense that people are committed to wanting to see the talks happen and that, I think, is encouraging of itself.”
            March 9, 2014 in remarks on her visit


            Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo arrived in Tehran on March 1 for what was supposed to be a four-day visit. But he left after just one day to attend an emergency meeting of European Union foreign ministers. The ministers will discuss the Ukrainian crisis. “We are concerned about the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Garcia-Margallo said in a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif. The Spanish official also said that Madrid is keen to expand economic ties with Tehran.
            Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski arrived in Iran with 20 business leaders on February 28. The visit --- the first by a Polish foreign minister in 10 years-- was supposed to last for three days. But he left early due to the standoff in Crimea between the Ukraine and Russia. The following are excerpted remarks by Poland’s ambassador to Tehran, Juliusz Gojlo, on the minister’s visit.
            “The Polish Foreign Minister is especially interested in encouraging both sides, in the year of 540th anniversary of the first diplomatic interactions between Poland and Iran, to develop trade exchange as both nations have done for centuries. To this end, Poland will soon be sending a trade delegation to Iran, headed by our deputy prime minister and comprising of 50 Polish business leaders. The visit will showcase the powerful economic component of Polish-Iranian relations.
            “Mindful of the tradition spanning over 500 years of good relations with Iran, Poland has always tried to serve as a bridge between Iran and the European Union.”
             Feb. 27, 2014 in an interview with the Tehran Times

            On February 22, Chairman of the Italy-Iran Chamber of Commerce Rosario Alessandro arrived in Iran with a business delegation for a four-day visit to explore investment opportunities. The Italian group met with the president of the Iranian Investment Organization and officials at Iran’s Industry, Mines and Trade Ministry.

            Foreign Minister Carl Bildt traveled to Iran from February 3 to 6, marking the visit by a Swedish foreign minister since 2002. The following are excerpts from Bildt’s blog post written just before he arrived in Tehran.
            “When Hassan Rouhani was elected President of Iran in June last year, however, a new window of opportunity was opened. His election was driven by expectations of change and reform.
            “And the months since then have seen a dramatic and important diplomatic thaw in relations with Iran. Naturally, the most important aspect has been the interim agreement on the nuclear issue, which has now entered into force and also eases some of the sanctions.
“As I travel to Tehran, it is of course in the hope that it will be possible to continue down this path.”
            Feb. 3, 2014 in a blog post


            On February 3, a 107-member delegation of French businesspeople arrived in Iran to revive economic ties. The group included executives and investors from energy, telecommunications, automobile and engineering companies. They planned to attend an Iranian-French business conference and meetings with senior leaders, including U.S.-educated economist and President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff, Mohammad Nahavandian.
The Elders
            On January 27, the independent group of global leaders called The Elders began a three-day visit to Iran to “encourage and advance the new spirit of openness and dialogue between Iran and the international community.” The delegation, led by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, stressed the need to “rebuild trust and mutual respect in the region and further afield.”


South Korea
      Kang Chang Hee, the speaker of South Korea’s National Assembly, visited Tehran from January 26 to January 28. He discussed opportunities for expanded trade and Korean investment in Iran’s energy sector with President Rouhani on January 27. “South Korea has been successful in economy virtually without any natural resources. Our technology would help Iran’s mines be developed. Iran has taken significant steps toward Geneva deal and it definitely is of importance in bilateral relations with South Korea,” Chang Hee said in a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart.
            On January 21, the chair of the Mexican Senate’s Foreign Policy Commission, Gabriela Cuevas, signed a memorandum of understanding with her Iranian counterpart for increased parliamentary communication and cooperation. “Mexico is willing to expand its friendly relations with Iran, esspecially in economic, cultural and scientific fields,” she told Iran’s parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani.
            An Irish delegation headed by Pat Breen, the chairman of parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee, visited Iran from January 10 to 14. They met with Foreign Minister Zarif, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, chairman of parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi and senior trade officials. Breen told Larijani that President Hassan Rouhani’s election has presented a possibility for Iran to improve relations with the West.
            German parliament member Andreas Schockenhoff from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party visited Iran from January 6 to 10. The deputy head of the Christian Democratic Union met with his counterparts in Tehran. “We not only welcome enhancement of Iran-Germany ties, but we welcome and support [such expansion of relations] with entire Europe; we are not satisfied with the current level of the relations,” he told Secretary of Iran’s Human Rights Council Mohammad Javad Larijani on January 8. The following are excerpted remarks by Schockenhoff to local media.
            “The initial [nuclear] agreement in Geneva is the first important step to find a final solution for the Iran nuclear issues and normalizing the relations with the country, however, much should be done to that stage yet.
            “If Iran and Powers work out a comprehensive plan in the set deadline, hopes would be invested on the détente between Germany and Iran, and I would say that Berlin is highly interested in entente with Tehran.”
            Jan. 6, 2014 to Iranian media


            Senator Pier Ferdinando Casini, chairman of parliament’s Foreign Policy Commission also visited Iran in early January. “We favor to see a historical agreement which will be able to guarantee Iranˈs right to produce peaceful nuclear energy and ensure the West of peaceful nature of Iranˈs nuclear program,” the delegation said in a January 5 statement. Besides Tehran, the delegation also visited the central and southern provinces of Isfahan and Fars.
            Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino previously met with Foreign Minister Zarif and other senior leaders in Tehran from December 21 to 22. Bonino’s visit was the first by an Italian foreign minister in nearly 10 years.
United Kingdom
            Former Foreign Minister Jack Straw led a four-man delegation to Tehran from January 6 to January 10. The delegates included members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Iran. They met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, Chairman of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi and others. The visit marked the first visit by U.K. lawmakers in years. The British Embassy in Tehran was closed in late 2011 after hardliner demonstrators stormed the building. The following are excerpts from Jack Straw’s op-ed in The Independent about the trip.
            “For this time, no deal with Iran does not mean Iran will stay isolated, as it did during the Ahmadinejad period. Rather, it will lead to a ragged erosion of sanctions. Russia and China will pull away. Pressure from European exporters will increase – especially from Italy and Germany. (Our Lufthansa flight back from Tehran was full of German business people.) Above all, there would be no guarantees whatsoever about Iran’s future nuclear activities.”


European Union
            Eight representatives of the European parliament arrived in Tehran on December 13 for talks with senior Iranian lawmakers and officials. The visit marked the first in six years for the European Union. The following are excerpts from an article on the visit by Tarja Cronberg, chair of parliament’s Iran delegation and a member of its foreign affairs committee.
            “There is no doubt that the people of Iran have very high expectations of the new president and the government, one of the more important observations made by our five member MEP delegation. Even the NGOs state that they can work more freely. There are cracks in the isolation. The momentum has to be seized.
            “It is obvious that President Hassan Rouhani is under great pressure to improve the human rights situation, in accordance with his electoral promises. The conservatives, however, still rule the human rights council and the judiciary. The president has released political prisoners, but executions have increased.”



Iran Fact File: Arak Heavy Water Reactor

            The following fact sheet was published by Iran Fact File, a project of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

      The IR-40 is an as yet incomplete Iranian heavy water moderated research reactor with a declared power rating of 40 MW. The reactor was under construction until January 20, 2014 but work has been stopped under the terms of the Joint Plan of Action agreed to by Iran, the United States and other world powers (see IranFactFile fact sheet on Joint Plan of Action). Research reactors can be used for a number of legitimate civilian goals, including the production of medical isotopes. However, such facilities can also be used to produce plutonium for use in nuclear weapons. While the full design details of the IR-40 are not publicly available, what is known suggests that the IR-40 reactor may be able to produce about 10 kg of plutonium per year if and when it is completed and enters into operation. However, Iran is not known to possess the facilities needed to separate plutonium from spent nuclear fuel, a step that would be needed if this material were to be used in nuclear weapons.
      All nuclear reactors produce plutonium, but heavy water moderated reactors are particularly well suited for this purpose. The quality of plutonium produced is a function of the type of nuclear reactor and the length of time the fuel is inside the reactor. Heavy water reactors have been the reactor of choice for many countries such as Israel, India, and Pakistan for their nuclear weapon programs. Iran’s interest in such a design has added to broad concerns about its nuclear intentions.
Stated Purpose of the IR-40
            According to Iran and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports, the IR-40 reactor will be used to “research and development and the production of radioisotopes for medical and industrial use.[1]” In a presentation to the IAEA in 2003, Iran explained that it had not been able to purchase a reactor from foreign sources to replace the aging Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) and in the mid-1980’s concluded that “the only alternative was a heavy water reactor which could use domestically produced UO2 and zirconium.” The TRR was originally provided to Iran by the United States under the Atoms for Peace program in the 1960s. Iran stated that it had decided to replace TRR because, “after 35 years of operation, it was reaching the safety limits for which it had been designed and because of its location within what had become the suburbs of the city of Tehran.” Iran decided a new reactor should be constructed away from Tehran in the “Khondab area near Arak”. Iran further declared that in order to meet its isotope requirements, such a reactor must have a “neutron flux of 1013 to 1014 n/cm 2s, based on a power of the order of 30-40 MW when using natural UO2 fuel.[2]”
            Iran has legitimate civil need for medical isotopes including molybdenum-99 (Moly-99). Moly-99 is critical for cancer therapy and certain medical procedures. Iran currently imports the Molybdenum-99 (about 600 Ci at production or 70 Ci at destination[3]) that it needs from Russia but a large fraction of the isotope decays during travel. Because of its short half-life, Moly-99 cannot be stockpiled and must be constantly produced.
Heavy Water Research Reactors
            In some respects, design, production and operation of a heavy water reactor is easier than other reactor alternatives. Heavy water reactors do not need enriched uranium fuel and it is technically easier and less expensive to produce heavy water than to enrich uranium. In addition, heavy water reactors do not need to be shut down for refueling, meaning they can be operated for longer periods of increased reliability. These two factors, however, also make heavy water reactors major proliferation concerns.   It is not clear why, after having demonstrated an ability to enrich uranium that Iran has continued to pursue the heavy water reactor route, since Tehran could produce a light water reactor for research and medical isotope production purposes. The director of the Iranian Atomic Energy Institute Ali Akbar Salahi has recently indicated that Iran was open to redesigning the reactor[4]. A redesign could reduce, but not eliminate the proliferation concerns surrounding this aspect of Iran’s nuclear program.
What is Known about the IR-40?
            Iran has declared that the power of this reactor will be 40 MW, a number consistent with estimates of the cooling capacity of the mechanical draft cooling towers from satellite images which ranges from 40-50 MW.[5] The fuel assemblies for the IR-40 appear similar to that of the Russian RBMK and consists of 18 vertical tubes (fuel rods) isolated from each other containing natural uranium oxide (UO2) fuel pellets and a central carrier rod. We estimate that 1 fuel rod contains ~3.1 kg natural uranium so that a single fuel assembly contains 56.5 kg uranium. There is evidence that the Russian company, the producer of RBMK fuel assemblies, and another company in Obninsk assisted Iran in “modifying the design of a RBMK fuel rod bundle for use in the Arak heavy water reactor” in the 1990s[6].This would explain the similarity in the design to the RBMK fuel assemblies that are for graphite-moderated nuclear reactors not heavy water reactors. The RBMK reactor fuel assemblies are pressurized and contain UO2 pellets in a Zirconium metal tube.
            Figure 1 shows a picture of an IR-40 fuel assembly reportedly released by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran in 2011. The fuel assembly is similar to the RBMK fuel assembly displayed in Figure 2. There will be 150 fuel elements inside the reactor core with an expected active length of 340 cm[7]. According to Iranian declared specifications the IR-40 reactor will require about 10,000 kg UO2/year. Iran is able to produce this material at the Fuel Manufacturing Plant (FMP) at Esfahan.
            Nuclear reactor fuel must be able to withstand high temperatures and pressures without deteriorating and must be able to resist a strong radiation field. Therefore the fuel needs to be adequately tested to ensure that the fuel will perform as expected. Although, the IR-40 fuel appears to be a variant of the Russian RBMK fuel type it still needs to be rigorously tested before the fuel is used inside the reactor. Furthermore, to our knowledge the RBMK fuel type has not been utilized in a heavy water reactor before. This lack of testing could be a significant constraint on Iran’s ability to operate the reactor, if and when it is completed.
Current Status of the IR-40
            The IR-40 has ceased construction and has not yet been commissioned. Before work was stopped under the Joint Plan of Action, the IR-40 was to “be commissioned using nuclear material” in the first quarter of 2014. However, the agreement requires the IR-40 not to “commission the reactor or transfer fuel or heavy water to the reactor site and will not test additional fuel or produce more fuel for the reactor or install remaining components.” In the February 2014 report the IAEA confirmed that since January 2014, “Iran had ceased the production of nuclear fuel assemblies for the IR-40 Reactor at FMP”. The IAEA has recently carried out a Design Inspection Verification (DIV), an initial and periodic inspection of a facility to verify the correctness and completeness of the design as compared to the declared design of the facility at the site. The DIV was authorized under the Framework for Cooperation signed November 11, 2013 by the Director General IAEA, Yukiya Amano, and the Vice-President of Iran.
Supporting Facilities
            The construction and operation of the IR-40 reactor requires Iran to operate several key support facilities. These include a Heavy Water Production Plant (HWPP) and a Zirconium Production Plant (ZPP), both of which are located near the IR-40 site in Arak. The Fuel Manufacturing Plant (FMP) and the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) at Esfahan also play critical roles in supporting the IR-40 project. A notional diagram is shown in Figure 2 illustrating how some of the components for the IR-40 are provided by different facilities. Each one of these nodes should be seen as a potential bottleneck in the completion of the IR-40.
Figure 1: Apparent picture of the IR-40 fuel assembly taken from Figure 8-3 Thomas Mo Willig’s thesis[8].
Figure 2: Diagram of RBMK fuel assembly taken from the Ignalina RBMK-1500 nuclear power plant source book[9]. The numbers correspond to the following parts: 1: Suspension bracket, 2: top –plu, 3: adapter, 4: connecting rod, 5: fuel element, 6: carrier rod, 7: end-sleeve, 8: end cap, 9: retaining nut[10].
Table 1: Significant components of the IR-40 that have and have not yet been installed.
Not Yet Installed
- Overhead crane is installed
- Control room not installed
- Moderator and primary coolant heat exchangers installed
- Refueling machine not installed
- Circuit piping installed
- Reactor cooling pumps not installed
- Purification systems installed
- Moderator storage tanks installed
- Pressurizer for reactor cooling system installed
- Reactor Vessel connected to cooling and moderator piping
Figure 3: Sketch showing the supply of relevant nuclear components for fueling the IR-40. See text for further details.
Table 2: Various known specifications of the IR-40 and source of information.
Aspect of IR-40
Power = 40 MW
Iran declaration reported in IAEA (GOV/2003/75, GOV/2004/83, GOV/2013/27, GOV/2013/40). Also, consistent with the existing Mechanical Draft Cooling Towers from satellite images.
10 kg/year plutonium production = equivalent of what is needed for 1-2 bombs. Will remain weapon grade plutonium for at least ¾ of a year fuel exposure.
CNS study based on power. Independent assessment ISIS:http://www.isisnucleariran.org/sites/detail/arak/. For a thorough study using SCALE computer code see T. Willig’s thesis.
Fuel assembly has 18 places for fuel rods
Picture from T. Willig’s thesis attributed to a report from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI)and RBMK source manual. The picture in Figure 1 has not been verified that it corresponds to an IR-40 fuel assembly.
Mass of uranium in fuel assembly is 56.5 kg and therefore fuel rod is expected to contain 3.2 kg of uranium.
Fuel is UO2 with Zirconium cladding
Iran declaration reported in IAEA (GOV/2003/75)
Purpose for research and medical isotope production
IAEA (GOV/2003/75)
Russian assistance to Iran on fuel
ISIS report[1] “Based on interviews with knowledgeable officials, NIKIET and a Russian company in Obninsk provided key technology for the Arak reactor. This assistance included modifying the design of a RBMK fuel rod bundle for use in the Arak heavy water reactor. As a result of U.S. pressure, this assistance for Arak stopped in the late 1990s.”
Active length of fuel assembly is 340 cm and 150 fuel assemblies.
Report from Iranian scientists in Annals of Nuclear Energy[2]. See also: GOV/2013/27 and GOV/2013/40.
Iran Molybdenum-99 requirement is 70 6-day Ci.
Oct 5 2011, atominfo.ru http://www.atominfo.ru/news6/f0616.htm
Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) produces 14 t UO2 / year
As reported in GOV/2012/55


[1] David Albright and Christina Walrond, Update on the Arak Reactor, Institute for Science and International Security, July 15, 2013. See: isis-online.org/uploads/isis…/Arak_Update_25_August2009.pdf
[2] M. Moguiy, A. H. Fadaei, A. S. Shirani, Analysis of different variance reduction techniques in research reactor beam tube calculations, Annals of Nuclear Energy, 41, 2012, p106
[1] Director General, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran”, GOV/2003/75, para 42, pg 8.
[2] Neutron flux, measured in the number of neutrons emitted per cm2 area in one second, is a measure of the intensity of the neutron source and can be seen as a measure of the usability of the reactor. If the flux is high, more isotopes can be produced, better probes of materials can be done, and a range of other applications are improved. The only thing that does not necessarily scale with intensity is the usefulness of the reactor for teaching and training.
[3] Molybdenum-99 production is actually quoted in units of 6-day Ci which is the molybdenum-99 produced after 8 days of decay after the end of irradiation in a reactor. It is called 6-day Ci because it generally takes 2 days of processing of the target so that the total number of days after end of irradiation is 8 days.
[4] http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/02/06/uk-iran-nuclear-arak-idUKBREA151BD20140206
[5] IAEA Board of Governors Reports GOV/2003/75, GOV/2004/83, GOV/2013/27
[6] David Albright, Paul Brannan, and Robert Kelley, “Mysteries Deepen Over Status of Arak Reactor Project,” Institute for Science and International Studies, August 11, 2009, http://www.isisnucleariran.org/assets/pdf/ArakFuelElement.pdf; David Albright, Paul Brannan, and Robert Kelley, “Update on the Arak Reactor in Iran,” Institute for Science and International Studies, August 25, 2009, http://www.isisnucleariran.org/assets/pdf/Arak_Update_25_August2009.pdf.
[7] M. Moguiy, A. H. Fadaei, A. S. Shirani, Analysis of different variance reduction techniques in research reactor beam tube calculations, Annals of Nuclear Energy, 41, 2012, p106.
[8] T. Willig, Feasibility and benefits of converting the Iranian heavy water reactor IR-40 to a more proliferation-resistant reactor, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Department of Mathematical Science and Technology, Masters Thesis, Dec 2011. Original source: Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, “Nuclear Industry in IRAN An overview on Iran’s activities and achievements in nuclear technology,” 2011. The authenticity of this picture has not been determined.
[9] K. Almenas et al., Ignalina RBMK-1500 – A Source Book, Ignalina Safety Analysis Group, Lithuanian Energy Institute, 1993.
[10] K. Almenas (1993)


FM Zarif to Russia : State of Relations

Mark N. Katz

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will visit Russia on April 22 for a ministerial meeting of Caspian Sea countries. What is the status of relations between Tehran and Moscow?
      Moscow and Tehran have long appeared to have good relations but they are, in fact, often contentious. Iran values Russia’s role in tempering Western demands about its nuclear program and on other issues. At the same time, the Islamic Republic does not want to be drawn into defending Russia in the tense dispute over Ukraine, which pits Russia against the United States and Europe.
     Ironically, Moscow’s relations with Washington and the West today are worse than Tehran’s. Russia is actually concerned about losing influence in Iran, both because of President Hassan Rouhani’s more moderate tone on foreign policy and international tensions since the Crimea crisis erupted in February 2014.
On what issues do they collaborate? On what issues are they divided?
      Moscow and Tehran are often divided over the very issues on which they collaborate. 
      One of the biggest problems, for example, has been Iran’s first nuclear reactor at Bushehr. Russia was instrumental in completing the Bushehr reactor, but the long-delayed opening as well as numerous contract disputes became sources of tension. 
      Moscow has been helpful to Iran in delaying or limiting sanctions introduced by the West at the U.N. Security Council since 2006. But Tehran has also been annoyed that Russia voted to approve four resolutions that it could have vetoed. 
            Moscow has been an important arms supplier for Iran, but Tehran has been unhappy about the limits to cooperation. Tehran was furious in 2010 when Moscow canceled the S-300 air defense missile systems sold to Iran—even though Tehran had already paid for them. 
      Moscow and Tehran have been especially divided over how to draw the maritime boundaries in the Caspian Sea, an issue that will be discussed during the April 22 ministerial meeting. Given the failure of past meetings to make progress, prospects for this round are no better.
      One issue on which Moscow and Tehran have agreed is Syria. Both have supported the Assad regime’s campaign against the uprising launched in 2011. 
What is Russia’s stance on Iran’s nuclear program? What role has it played in the latest rounds of diplomacy?
            Moscow does not want Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, but it traditionally has not been as concerned as Washington. Moscow is far more concerned about maintaining and building Russia’s economic relationship with Tehran, especially in the area of petroleum, atomic energy and weaponry.
            Moscow fears a nuclear accord will improve Iranian-American relations, and that Tehran may then have less need for Russia for trade or as an ally. 
What is Iran’s stance on the unrest in Ukraine? And on Russia’s actions?
            The Iranian reaction to events in Crimea and Ukraine has been mixed. Some Iranian leaders have complained that the West is bullying Russia, while others warned about the general dangers of separatism, an issue about which Iran also feels vulnerable. Iran did not show up for a vote at the United Nations on Resolution 68/39 declaring that the Crimea referendum in March about joining Russia was invalid. Iran was one of 24 states that was absent for the vote. Events in Ukraine are not central to Iranian foreign policy. Tehran certainly does not want the Ukrainian crisis to jeopardize nuclear negotiations with the world’s six major powers.
Has the Iran-Russia relationship changed since President Hassan Rouhani took office in August 2013? If so, how?
            Before Rouhani’s election, Moscow hoped to play the role of mediator between Iran and the West, thus making Russia important for both sides. But the improved atmosphere between Iran and the West since Rouhani took office has lessened the need for Russian mediation. Even Iran and the United States can—and have had—direct talks with each other.
Mark N. Katz, professor of government and politics at George Mason University.

Click here for his chapter on Iran-Russia relations.

Photo credits: President.ir


Connect With Us

Our Partners

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Logo