Jeffrey LewisIR-2s on Display

Nothing says “wonkporn” like a centrifuge rotor, especially one made of carbon fiber.

Here is how Iraqi nuclear weaponeer Mahdi Obeidi described his “first time” seeing a URENCO TC-11 segment made of carbon fiber.

Then he showed us a centrifuge rotor, which surprised me because it was a highly classified object. Roughly the same dimensions as our maraging steel rotors, its smooth, dark gray surface reflected no light. Schaab held it gently in his fingers, caressing it as though he had pulled it out of the earth and sculpted it into form with his own hands rather than winding it on a machine.

Yeah, you might want to towel off that rotor before touching it.

So, imagine my surprise when I learned the Office of Iran’s President released almost fifty photographs of Ahmadinejad hanging out among centrifuges, including a couple of shots of him cradling a carbon fiber rotor casing for the IR-2 (above).

David Albright has described the IR-2 as one-half the length of the P1, or about 50 centimeters. MSNBC reports that Ahmadinead is 5 feet 4 inches, or 163 centimeters. tall. The segment does looks to be about one-third his height.

The picture also contains a hand holding what looks, to me at least, like it might, might be a carbon fiber bellows — although I don’t have any reference images to compare. Albright claims that Iran decided to dispense with the bellows, so maybe it is something else or just a piece of junk. Comments are welcome — the photographs are a little hard to make out.

Also, there is another shot with the casing and a rotor with, I think, a bearing on top of it.

Anyway, the pictures are available on on the Iranian President’s website.

In case you want direct links, the images are:

Two of photographs are missing. Have fun.


  1. Andy (History)

    Personally, I want to know what this guy is listening to:

    My prediction is Deeyah.

    On a more serious note, is this a fully-assembled IR-2?

  2. Mark

    This is a goldmine. We’re going to be seeing these photos in articles and reports for years to come.

    Here’s what jumped out at me:

    – We’re clearly seeing two types of centrifuge, based on the casing heights: presumably, IR1 (e.g., photos 28833-36) and IR2 (photos 28854, 28856-66).

    – Photos 28856-59 seem to show a complete IR2 and all its component parts. In 28856 you can see what look like the end caps and molecular pump along with the rotor and bearing-looking things mentioned above.

    – In 28838-39, we can see the tops of computer screens. Based on my count (compiling the two partial screens), there are 164 little dots (i.e., a cascade). If these are centrifuge status screens for each cascade, the one on the left screen is looking good but the one on the right screen either isn’t at full operation or isn’t faring too well (I’m assuming that green=good, grey & dark grey=something else, maybe grey=shutdown and dark grey=failed).

    -Ahmadinejad will continue to stand up to Western propaganda, such as the idea of not walking on the tracks (28846-47, 50).

  3. Steven Dolley (History)

    I’m guessing that second photo, at least, was Photoshopped a bit by the Iranians to smudge or distort the dimensions of the carbon fiber components.

  4. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    The fully assembled IR-2 — about as tall as Ahmadinejad though photographed at a really odd angle — would suggest that the IR-2 comprises, what do you think, three segments connected by bellows?

    Mark, excellent observations. I don’t follow the tracks reference. Help me out.

  5. Andreas Persbo

    Jeff. Your best post yet. As Mark said, this is intel to die for…

  6. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    Also, I observe that the centrifuges in the background, where the guy is rocking out, are much shorter than either the P1 or the mockup.

    Those could be installed IR-2s.

  7. Dan

    Pretty useful intel to just give away. Also, is that actor Jean Reno in the background?

  8. Hairs (History)

    Very interesting photos – as Mark says, I’m sure we’ll be referring to them and discussing them for years to come.

    The President’s website is also interesting in its own right. Two particular quotes stand-out:

    “Iran has successfully tested new cheaper nuclear devices in smaller dimensions that are five fold faster than the present models, he said.”

    “We have attained remarkable achievements and success in production of magnetic alloy with new devices,” he said.

    If these are to be believed then the latest advance (presumably the IR2) has a capacity of something in the range 5 – 10 kg SWU/year, and that Iran has made “remarkable” progress in the production of magnetic bearings (which are generally considered to be one of the more difficult components to produce).

    Of course, it may all be smoke and mirrors, designed to convince fools like me that Iran’s technology has advanced further than it really has – and presumably then to accept it as a fait accompli. But the alternative is that the photos and statements represent very substantial progress and, like it or not, mean that Iran could soon be in a position like Germany and Japan, wherein if it wished to produce a weapon there would be no substantial obstacle to producing the required fissile material in a short period.

  9. b (History)

    Nice find Jeffrey!


    just chatted with Ahmedinejad and lamented a bit about these small, low-res pictures.

    He sends best wishes and asked me to advice you all to use the main URLs


    to get to the bigger, high resolution versions. He also asked to excuse that these load a bit slower though. Apperently they are still updating the fibers in the mediteranian.

    Please all note also that all of this takes place under the watchful lenses of the wall mounted IAEA cameras


  10. CKR (History)

    Side point on “toweling off the rotor:” Whenever I was on a program with neat equipment, we always had samples for the politicians to handle.

    One unloaded Rover reactor fuel element stayed in one meeting room up until the early nineties. It might still be there, but that was the last time I was in that room. We used it as a pointer in shows-and-tells. It had a nice heavy and hard feeling to it. Not at all what you’d expect from graphite.

  11. Mark Pyruz (History)

    Vivid demonstration of Iran’s confidence and transparency in its nuclear program. Interesting times we live in.

  12. Rip (History)


    Was your comment about the IAEA cameras a goof or were cameras installed at this facility? The camera in your image appears to have anti-tampering accouterments – the blue box. It is in a fixed mount. Are they active? Where is the video dumped? Also note there is a second camera just below the blue boxed unit.

    (I think a goof but I don’t know enough about the status of the IAEA monitoring programs in Iran to confidently assume you are goofing. Would the Iranians leave an inactive IAEA camera in the lab as a “demonstration” of their cooperation with the IAEA? The IAEA appears not to share much of any of its data until it has been homogenized into blathering, hedged formal reports choking with qualifying adjectives.)

  13. b (History)

    @Rip – a goof – I assume it is an IAEA camera – I don’t really know, but there is no other reason to have one there.

    The IAEA certainly has cameras in Natanz and is observing the program. Do they have people watching the video stream all day? I don’t know.

    But fact is that the Iranian enrichment program is under IAEA observation as it should be.


  14. dell

    Hi guys!

    At first, sorry for my English.

    Please attentation to his clothes, look at his white coat, he had two types:

    1. with red pocket

    Ahmadinejad walking along IR-1

    2. with yellow pocket


    I guess that it might be the indicator of where Ahmanidejad was (red -> premises of IR1, yellow -> premises of IR2)

    Let’s back to the Mark’s point about status screens:

    If I had to choose, I would say that these computers status screens are related to the IR-1.

    There more then 30 monitors:

    btw: I think all of this is a big Potemkin village ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Rip (History)


    A friend in the CIA wants to know when will the DVD be available? ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. b (History)

    <I>A friend in the CIA wants to know when will the DVD be available? :)</I>

    Soon, still working on what DRM to use for the high-def TV streams.


    I believe this publishing by Iran to be a counter to the public relation (or “strategic information”) campaign the US is waging against Iran.

    Condy Rice and others try deliberately to make the Iran’s civil program look as something “secretive”, “dubious” and “nefarious”.

    Iran counters with open souce pictures.

    /quote/Rice said she could not verify “one way or another” what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had said this week about apparent advances in Tehran’s nuclear program./endquote/

    Iran’s answer – we prove it by publishing these pictures.

    Good move …

  17. Hass (History)

    The IAEA does indeed monitor Iran’s centrifuges. the cameras do not provide a “live feed” though that’s the topic of on-going talks. For now the IAEA has to come and change the tapes. Iran has exceeded its NPT safeguards by allowing inspections at the centrifuge manufacturing plant too, where no nuclear material exists and so is not technically subject to safeguards.

    You’ll see to concurrent reactions in general to Iran’s nuclear advances: 1- hyped up alarm and yet 2- claims that they’re just making it up. The point is to avoid the conclusion that it is a fait accompli, while at the same time scaremongering a good bit too.

  18. Hass (History)

    Oh and incidentally, the Iranians were giving tours of their nuclear facilities to tourists.

  19. Mark (History)

    Re: my failed joke in the comment above.
    Several of the pics show Ahmadinejad walking on tracks (e.g., 28850). I assume these are for transporting heavy equipment/UF6 cylinders around the plant, and are clearly not meant to be walked on, as evidenced by the paths on the sides. Ahmadinejad doesn’t seem to care, and no one is going to tell him otherwise.

    PS- In that image (28850), you can see another IAEA camera facing the other way down the tracks. So it seems they’re monitoring cylinder movements as well.

  20. b (History)

    “Ahmadinejad doesnโ€™t seem to care, and no one is going to tell him otherwise.”

    My impression was he did this simply for fun. Why would anyone tell him to not have fun?

  21. peter zimmerman (History)

    Picture 28851. The black object held in an anonymous hand to the right looks for all the world like a bellows. I thought the IR-2 was bellows-free.

    288852 looks like the mounted rotor but w/o the exterior vacuum case.

    Don’t know what the dude in -54 is listening to, but the mounts on the floor are for new centrifuges. Note that they are pretty much an extension from the existing machines in the background.

    I’m impressed with the apparent diameter of the rotor(s?) shown in -58. Big step forwards.

    In -74, are those steel rotors?

    In some of the early pix you can see numbers on the floor, white in blue circles. 12, 14, 15, 16, 17 where I could see. I suspect those denote stages w/in cascades rather than cascades, but it isn’t clear.

    Possibly the real treasure trove in the high-res pictures will be the fact that you can see the plumbing. The exact way a cascade’s piping is set up is usually at least a commercial secret. And examination of the fittings might give some hint as to whether they are quick-release giving some idea whether or not the machines can be repiped quickly to allow a change in the enrichment at the product end and in the tails assay.

    One caution: the hardware Ahmadinejad is handling is likely not operational stuff. It’s sitting out in the air gathering dust and fingerprints. Note that Ahmadinejad and company are not in clean room gear; no head covering, just lab coats, booties on the feet, and dust on the floor. Rather more impressive rotors than the Iraqi aluminum tube “rotor” I handled once.

  22. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    Albright certainly said it was sans bellows, but the height to the assembled centrifuge and the decision to display a bellows seem to suggest otherwise.

    See you later today.

  23. J House (History)

    what is interesting is only prototypes of the IR2 are shown, and not in an operational cascade, like the P1’s in the photo.
    If they hav a crash in that room or a plumbing leak, that guy is in trouble.UF6 is toxic and very corrosive.

  24. peter zimmerman (History)

    If you really want to talk about ‘wonkporn,’ imagine what it’s like to see your first real, live, nuclear weapon in the flesh. Or to get a tour of the ‘Blue Rooms’ at Los Alamos and Livermore to see the full scale cutaway models. Now that’s wonkporn!

  25. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    I am going to try to put captions to all the pictures.

    Anyone want to help?

  26. AWR (History)

    I’d suggest the first photo in the post be captioned as follows: “Famed nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis explains to Pres. Ahmedinejad how to bake a loaf of french bread in a carbon fiber tube.”

  27. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    On the other post, I am starting a thread to identify the members of the vist.

    So far, in addition to Ahmadinejad, I think I see:

    * Mostafa Mohammad-Najar, Defense Minister
    * Saeed Jalili, Secretary, Supreme National Security Council (top nuclear negotiator)
    * Kazem Jalali, Rapporteur of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission
    * Gholam Reza Aghazadeh President, AEOI
    * Mohammed Saeedi, Vice President AEOI

    There are a couple of people I don’t recognize. The guy ith the round face and glasses and the guy with the white turban.


  28. Omid (History)

    I think the second photo is another Mr.ElBaradei said(in 22 feb report):
    On 13 January 2008, the Director General and Deputy Director General for Safeguards
    visited an AEOI R&D laboratory at Kalaye Electric, where they were given information on R&D
    activities being carried out there. These included work on four different centrifuge designs: two
    subcritical rotor designs, a rotor with bellows and a more advanced centrifuge. Iran informed the
    Agency that the R&D laboratory was developing centrifuge components, measuring equipment and
    vacuum pumps with the aim of having entirely indigenous production capabilities in Iran.