Iran to start building research nuclear reactor in coming weeks

Project will help produce electricity domestically, Tehran's atomic chief says

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Iran says it will begin construction on a research nuclear reactor at the Isfahan nuclear site in the coming weeks.

The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation Mohammad Eslami said the project is for “completely indigenous” reasons and will assist in producing electricity for the country.

“We have planned that based on the studies carried out, we will officially start the construction of the research reactor at the Isfahan site in the coming weeks,” Mr Eslami said, according to state news agencies.

Technicians work at the Arak heavy water reactor's secondary circuit, as officials and media visit the site in December 2019.  Photo: AP via Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran

“It must be said that this project is completely indigenous and Iranian, which will complete the chain of research, evaluation, testing and assurance of our nuclear power production.”

Iran's government has long emphasised self-sufficiency after decades of sanctions.

The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), describes research reactors as “nuclear reactors used for research, development, education and training.”

Mr Eslami's emphasis on the project's domestic purposes may be aimed at alleviating concerns western powers have over Iran's nuclear programme.

Talks to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal, have stalled since US President Joe Biden took office in 2021, following his predecessor's unilateral withdrawal from the agreement.

There have been no breakthroughs even after several rounds of indirect negotiations over a new deal between the US and Iran in Vienna and Qatar.

On Wednesday, Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian welcomed further “diplomacy and negotiations” among the parties.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said a new and final draft of the deal has been put forward, after no agreement was reached on previous versions.

“I have now put on the table a text that addresses, in precise detail, the sanctions lifting as well as the nuclear steps needed to restore the JCPOA,” Mr Borrell wrote in the Financial Times.

“After 15 months of intense, constructive negotiations in Vienna and countless interactions with the JCPOA participants and the US, I have concluded that the space for additional significant compromises has been exhausted,” Reuters quoted him saying.

Updated: July 28, 2022, 1:00 PM
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