Iran begins construction of four new nuclear plants

Islamic Republic denies that it seeks to acquire nuclear weapons, despite global suspicions

Head of Iran's atomic energy department Mohammad Eslami speaks during a news conference after unveiling domestically-developed nuclear medicines in an exhibition of the country's nuclear achievements, in Tehran, Iran, December 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Head of Iran's atomic energy department Mohammad Eslami speaks during a news conference after unveiling domestically-developed nuclear medicines in an exhibition of the country's nuclear achievements, in Tehran, Iran, December 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran began construction on four more nuclear power plants in the country’s south, with expected total capacity of 5,000 megawatts, the official IRNA news agency reported Thursday.

Iran seeks to produce 20,000 megawatts of nuclear energy by 2041.

The country has one active nuclear power plant, a 1,000-megawatt plant that went online with help from Russia in 2011. Iran is also building a 300-megawatt plant in the oil-rich Khuzestan province, near the western border with Iraq.

The IAEA, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, said last year that Iran has increased the rate at which it is producing near-weapons grade uranium.

Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in the report that Iran “in recent weeks had increased its production of highly enriched uranium, reversing a previous output reduction from mid-2023,” according to an IAEA spokesperson. Iran had previously slowed the rate at which it was enriching uranium to 60 percent purity, which is just a short technical step away from the weapons-grade level of 90%.

The West has long suspected that Iran is acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran denies it is seeking such weapons.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, visits an exhibition of the country’s nuclear achievements, at his office compound in Tehran, Iran, June 11, 2023. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader, Via AP, File)

IRNA quoted Mohammad Eslami, the head of Iran’s atomic agency, saying it will take up to nine years to complete the new plants.

The report said the four new plants are being built in the port town of Sirik on Iran’s east coast, some 1,150 kilometers south of the capital, Tehran.

Nasser Shariflou, the head of the project, told IRNA that the project will cost some $20 billion and will create 4,000 jobs. Each plant is expected to use 35 tons of nuclear fuel per year.

Rafael Grossi, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), speaks during an interview ahead of the 78th United Nations General Assembly in New York, on September 18, 2023. (Ed Jones/AFP)

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