Iran has begun building a second nuclear power plant in the port city of Bushehr on the Persian Gulf. This was announced by the head of the National Atomic Energy Agency and Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi on Sunday, according to news agency FARS. The new nuclear power plant will have a 1,000-megawatt reactor and be completed by 2023.
Immediately thereafter, Iran will commence construction of a third nuclear power plant, Salehi said to be operational by 2025. The nuclear power plant in Bushehr serves civil purposes and is intended for energy production and supply. Because of the cooperation with Russia, the first nuclear power plant in Bushehr was never in the international focus, also because Russia is responsible for safety and nuclear issues.
According to Salehi, Iran would then have three nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 3,000 megawatts by 2025. The two new nuclear plants will also be built in cooperation with Russia, but according to Salehi, 90 percent of the experts will be locals.
After more than four years, Iran resumed uranium enrichment in the subterranean Fordo facility south of Tehran, again violating the international nuclear agreement. The leadership in Tehran wants to increase the pressure on the remaining after the US exit contractors to meet their obligations under the nuclear deal.
The Iranian Atomic Energy Agency (AEOI) also threatened on Saturday with an exit from the Non-Proliferation Treaty, should the Vienna Agreement not be implemented in accordance with the contract. Iran ratified the International Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1970, which aims for a "peaceful use" of nuclear energy. The Vienna Atomic Energy Agreement of 2015 should, after doubts, de facto prevent the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons.
The United States had unilaterally withdrawn from the nuclear agreement in early May 2018 and imposed sanctions against the country. With a policy of "maximum pressure," the US government is trying to persuade Iran to renegotiate the nuclear agreement with stricter conditions. The other contracting parties are still holding onto the deal, but without the US, they are unable to implement it. Many companies are reluctant to invest in Iran. Tehran is particularly concerned with the lifting of US sanctions, which have plunged the country into an economic crisis.
AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said uranium enrichment had begun to a degree of 4.5 percent. Earlier in the week, uranium gas had been injected into the 1044 centrifuges in Fordo. According to the Vienna Atomic Energy Contract, Fordo was only to be used for scientific projects; the centrifuges there were only allowed to be tested without the introduction of gas.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna has been informed about all steps in Fordo, said Kamalvandi. IAEA inspectors were also present on the spot, checking the process. The Iranian nuclear authority also invited local media representatives to Fordo, but foreign journalists were not allowed to attend.
Western intelligence has repeatedly accused the Iranian leadership of using the underground nuclear facility Fordo for military purposes. Therefore, the transformation of the plant into a research center was one of the key issues in the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the five UN veto powers – China, France, Great Britain, Russia and the USA – as well as Germany.
President Hassan Rouhani had called it unacceptable that an agreement would only be respected by one side. Therefore, Tehran vehemently rejects international concern and criticism. "Stick to the Vienna Agreement, and we will," said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Rouhani also emphasizes that Iran will immediately return to the provisions of the nuclear deal once it has been implemented in accordance with the Treaty.
Russia continues to call for dialogue in conflict with the West, despite the resumption of uranium enrichment in the Iranian nuclear facility Fordo. "We have to give diplomacy a chance," said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov (Riabkov) on Saturday in Moscow the Agency Tass. "There are many ideas, and if there is a political will, they can be implemented." What he specifically meant by this, Ryabkov did not say. Ryabkov, according to his ministry, spoke to his Iranian colleague Abbas Araqchi in Moscow. It was also about how a further escalation of the situation could be prevented. Moscow agrees with Tehran that there should be no measures that could cause further tensions, said Ryabkov.