Iran has started work on two $10 billion nuclear reactors in the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported on Monday citing Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Work on the two reactors “will commence next week,” the state television website quoted Behrouz Kamalvandi as saying.
Salehi said that Russia will begin construction on the two nuclear reactors, with work set to begin a year after Tehran signed a contract with Moscow to build the two reactors at the existing Russian-built Bushehr power plant in southern Iran. A series of agreements signed between the two countries last year foresees eventually increasing the total number of Russian-built reactors in the country to nine.
The start of construction follows a historic deal between Iran and world powers in July that ends a decade-long standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program. According to the deal, Iran agreed to dramatically scale back its nuclear program, making it much more difficult for it to develop nuclear weapons. The accord does not however limit Iran’s development of civilian nuclear sites. Construction of the two reactors will be bankrolled by Iran, Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia’s state nuclear company Rosatom, said last year.
Iran plans to build 20 more nuclear plants in the future, including four in Bushehr, to decrease its dependence on oil and gas. Russia had backed Iran during two years of nuclear negotiations with six world powers.
The two countries recently allied to prop up Syrian President Bashar Assad against opposition and jihadist groups, mainly the Islamic State organization. Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin eased restrictions on the country’s companies working on Iranian enrichment sites, enabling Russian firms to help modify centrifuges at the Fordo enrichment site and help Tehran redesign its Arak heavy water reactor.
Under the terms of the July deal, Tehran agreed to slash by two-thirds the number of centrifuges, machines that can “enrich” or purify uranium to make it suitable for peaceful uses but also for a nuclear weapon. Russian companies, as well as those from other nations, are eyeing business opportunities after sanctions on Iran are lifted, expected in the next two months, as the nuclear deal reaches its “implementation” stage.