Revealed: Emptying of the Iranian “Atomic Warehouse” at Turquz Abad

November 29, 2018

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear


David Albright, Olli Heinonen, Frank Pabian, and Andrea Stricker


Institute for Science and International Security

• Satellite imagery and statements presented by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been corroborated using commercially available imagery
• After the Iranian Nuclear Archives were revealed, Iran started to empty the separate Atomic Warehouse site
• The warehouse site does not appear to be a carpet cleaning factory as claimed by Iran
• The IAEA should ask to visit the site, inspect the removed containers and contents, and take samples from both containers and the site.

On September 27, 2018, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel revealed at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly the existence of a secret warehouse in the Turquz Abad district in Tehran, which he said held a range of equipment and materiel (as much as “300 tons”) in 15 shipping containers related to Iran’s past or possibly on-going nuclear weapons efforts.3 He also stated that the facility had held 15 kilograms of radioactive material that Iran had since dispersed around Tehran. He criticized the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for not being willing to inspect the site after Israel had quietly provided the IAEA with evidence of the “Atomic Warehouse” and information about Iran’s efforts to empty it. This emptying appears to have followed public revelations that Israel had seized a portion of Iran’s separate “Atomic Archive,” or alternatively called the “Nuclear Archive,” containing nuclear weapons files and documentation.4 Even after Netanyahu’s UN speech, and Iran’s continued efforts to empty out the site, the IAEA has still not inspected it. It should be encouraged to explain why it failed to do so and has yet to conduct a belated visit and ask for explanations from Iran on the purpose of the site and recent activities that have taken place there.

Imagery of the Warehouse

Figures 1 and 2 show the location of the Atomic Warehouse site in Tehran in September 2018 imagery as well as its relation to the site of the Nuclear Archive seized by Israel earlier in 2018 (and publicly revealed on April 30, 2018).5 The images show that they are separated by about five kilometers and that both are easily accessible via the Tehran Second-Bypass Expressway. Figure 3 shows the atomic warehouse site on September 26, 2018 just prior to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s UN speech revealing the site. Figure 4 shows the site in December 2017 before Israel hoisted documents from the Nuclear Archive. At that time, several shipping containers of various sizes can be seen. There were five long shipping containers and ten short shipping containers present in open storage at the site, which matches the number of shipping containers described by the Israeli Prime Minister. Those containers are also seen in satellite imagery from May 2018 obtained by the Institute from the Israeli government. Based on Google Earth imagery, the site was unchanged from February 2017 until mid-2018, when changes began following public revelations about the Nuclear Archive.


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