The ground-breaking ceremony for Iran’s second nuclear power reactor was held at Bushehr on 10 September. Russia and Iran signed the agreement to build the second and third reactors (Bushehr II) at the site in southern Iran in November 2014, with an option of building six more in the future. The agreement to build unit 1 at Bushehr was signed in 1992 and the 1,000MWe VVER reactor was eventually connected to the national grid in 2011 and reached full capacity the following year. Bushehr is Iran’s first NPP. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), estimates that each reactor saves some 11m barrels of oil a year. The cost of the Bushehr II project is estimated at $10bn and construction is expected to take 10 years.
Salehi noted in an earlier interview that the buildings for new power plants in Bushehr will be constructed by Iranians "who will be responsible for about the 30% of the job". He said Iran can build a considerable amount of the required equipment, except for the nuclear island, based on the experience gained during the construction of Bushehr-1. “We can produce various different types of pumps ourselves. So, we have arranged, under the contract, that if Iranian industries are capable of building any of the equipment to international standards, Russia will leave it to Iranian companies," he said. He added that some components, such as "pressure vessels, some pumps, and generators" cannot be produced in Iran due to their size, and Russia will provide them.
Construction of unit 3 at Bushehr power plant with Russia’s assistance is scheduled to begin in 2018, the according to Iranian vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri. He said cooperation with Russia would not be limited to the construction of reactors and would include the production of stable isotopes for medical and agricultural purposes. Russia is currently helping Iran to restructure its enrichment facility at Fordow for the production of stable isotopes as part of the July 2014 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreed with the P5+1 countries (USA, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany).
As to Iran’s future plans for nuclear development, Salehi said Iran was negotiating with other countries and information would be provided as soon as there are some results. He earlier told state TV Channel Two (IRTV2):
"China is one of the countries that we are seriously negotiating with. Some significant steps have been taken in this regard but we cannot confidently announce it because it is not finalised yet." He added that other countries had also expressed interest in co-operating with Iran but refused to name them stating that the "negotiations are at early stages". Iran’s long-term plans include the construction of 20,000MWe of nuclear capacity by 2020.
Salehi recalled that Iran had been working on the design of 360MWe power reactor jointly with some European companies. “Our experts in the organisation designed them while the European company reviewed and corrected the defects of the designs and later approved them," he said. However, this stopped "when sanctions were intensified" against Iran. "In the past three or four years, they left so we continued the work ourselves,” he explained, adding: “They have now returned and we are about to sign a contract for designing 360MWe reactor which is planned to be installed in Darkhovin [70 km south of Ahvaz, in southwest of Iran], but it will take a rather long time." Before the crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme erupted in 2002, French companies were working with Iran on an NPP for Darkhovin.
Iran is also redesigning its heavy water research reactor under construction at Arak as part of the JCPOA agreement. China is taking a leading role in the redesign. Salehi noted: It has been clearly mentioned in the nuclear deal, so if we supposedly devise a five-year plan for modernising the Arak reactor, the first load of fuel in the next five-year time will be provided by the Chinese, but after that the required fuel for Arak reactor will be produced in Iran. This means that after six years, we will be a producer of the fuel at least for the Arak research reactor".