Iran has started construction of its indigenously-designed Karoun NPP in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, according to Mohammad Eslami, head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI). The NPP will be built at Darkhovin about 70 kilometres from the southwestern city of Ahvaz in the provincial capital of Khuzestan, near the Karun River. Eslami told reporters after a cabinet meeting that the government has signed contracts with domestic companies to equip the plant.

He said water and electricity would be supplied to support work at the site and a 24 MW power facility was also being built for desalination plant.

The following day he said development of a new uranium mine was underway. He said detailed exploration of uranium and rare earth elements began last year at Chan-e-Sar in West Azerbaijan province. The mining complex will supply raw materials for nuclear fuel.

AEOI said it had carried out geological mapping, prepared a detailed phase-by-phase report and used airborne geophysical technology to identify and investigate uranium and other element mineralisation in the area. The "tonnage and grade of minerals" had been calculated. Construction is expected to take 30 months and would continue in parallel with "operations, construction and research & development, particularly regarding the processing of other elements with radioactive materials”. The first phase of the Chan-e-Sar project will require an investment of about IRR10,000bn ($240m). “We are moving from the research phase to the execution phase,” Eslami said.

Iran previously mined uranium at the Gachina mine near the Persian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas. According to the IAEA, the Bandar Abbas uranium plant, which had a production capacity of 21 tonnes of uranium a year, closed in 2016. In 2017, the Ardakan production plant began operating, producing 50 tons of uranium a year by processing ore from the Saghand mine in the Yazd province. In February, AEOI announced the start of construction of a uranium-molybdenum mine at the Narigan Mining Complex site in Yazd, which Eslami said at the time contained deposits of 650 tonnes of uranium in addition to 4,600 tonnes of molybdenum.

Image courtesy of IFP