New Information about the Parchin Site: What the Atomic Archive Reveals About Iran’s Past Nuclear Weapons Related High Explosive Work at the Parchin High Explosive Test Site

October 23, 2018

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear


David Albright, Olli Heinonen, and Andrea Stricker


Institute for Science and International Security

A great deal of on-the-ground information about Iran’s Parchin site has publicly emerged. This site was involved prior to 2004 in high explosive testing related to the development of nuclear weapons. The new information, mainly in the form of Iranian documents and photos, is from an archive seized by Israel in Tehran, a fact that was publicly revealed on April 30, 2018 by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He reported that this archive shows that in 2003 Iran was operating a nuclear weapons program, codenamed AMAD Plan, which aimed to build five nuclear weapons and prepare an underground nuclear test site, if a political decision was made to test. The Parchin site was a key part of that nuclear weapons research and development effort.

Iran’s stark aim, in violation of its commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and contrary to its signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), is in contrast to the finding by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in December 2015 that Iran’s nuclear weapons activities had not gone beyond feasibility and simple scientific studies

This new information not only affirms our previous assessments about Parchin, but further expands our understanding of the activities and goals at this site. It necessitates calling for more action by the IAEA and the Joint Commission, which administers the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The archive provides the public its first look inside the Parchin nuclear weapons development facility and at the type of nuclear weapons related activities that took place at the site. This report, in particular, for the first time publicly correlates photos from inside the main building, called Taleghan 1 by Iran, to satellite imagery, updates previous discussion of the purpose of the second major building at the site, called Taleghan 2, and touches upon the operation of the facilities, including confirmation that Iran was testing in Taleghan 1 a specialized, difficult to develop, neutron initiator to start the chain reaction in a nuclear explosion. The new information about Parchin, aka Taleghan, shows that Iran conducted far more high explosive tests at the site than previously understood. It may have maintained some of the equipment for later use, and did in fact resume (elsewhere) some of those activities related to nuclear weapons development under a new organizational structure controlled by the Iranian military. Most recently, this organization was known by the acronym SPND, mentioned in the December 2015 IAEA report, or by its English name, the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research.


Read the full report at the Institute for Science and International Security.