Russia’s state atomic energy company on Monday announced it would begin construction of a second nuclear power plant in Iran’s Bushehr region later this year, the Islamic republic’s semi-state Fars news agency reported.
According to the report, the facility will be jointly built by Rosatom and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Work will start in 2015.
No exact date for construction was provided.
The plant is part of a 2014 deal between Tehran and Moscow to build two power plants in Bushehr in the coming years, in addition to the facility that is already operational.
The so-called Bushehr Phase II consists of two reactors at the same Persian Gulf coast site as the existing 1,000 megawatt reactor Russia launched last year.
The countries also agreed to expand the total number of reactors in Bushehr to four, and construct “four similar power units on another site in Iran,” the location of which is yet to be provided by Tehran, Rosatom said in November.
The project “will be under the IAEA safeguards and fully meet the nuclear nonproliferation regime,” Rosatom said. Nuclear fuel will be produced in Russia and spent fuel returned to Russia.
Iran plans to build 20 more nuclear plants in the future, including four in Bushehr, to decrease its dependence on oil and gas.
The Bushehr plant, which also produces 1,000 megawatts, was built by Russia after being delayed for years and officially handed over in September 2013.
Ahead of a June 30 nuclear deal deadline, US and Iranian diplomats met Friday in what US officials described as the most substantive negotiating round since world powers and Iran clinched a framework pact in April.
The sides are trying to narrow differences over how quickly to ease economic penalties against Tehran and how significantly the Iranians must open up military facilities to international inspections.
Tehran denies claims by the West and Israel that it is seeking nuclear weapons and insists that it is pursuing atomic energy purely for peaceful purposes.
A particularly sensitive issue is Iran’s ability to enrich uranium, which Tehran argues is needed to power Bushehr, but Israel and Western powers fear will be used to make an atomic bomb.
Also on Monday a magnitude-4.4 earthquake jolted a sparsely populated district some 70 miles northwest of Bushehr. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.
The epicenter of the quake was Bandar-e Ganaveh in the country’s southwestern coast, according to the USGS.
The Bushehr plant is built to withstand earthquakes of magnitude 8.
In 2013, a magnitude-6.1 temblor killed at least 37 people in an area of the same province where Monday’s quake struck.
Iran experiences frequent earthquakes. In 2003, a magnitude-6.6 earthquake killed some 26,000 and flattened the historic southeastern city of Bam.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.