Iran’s First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber has said Iran should become self-sufficient in designing and building nuclear reactors. He made the suggestion during a working group meeting arranged to draw up plans for producing 20,000 MWe of nuclear power by 2041.

Mohammad Eslami, director of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI), said studies have been carried out to identify construction sites. "New nuclear power plants will be established in five coastal provinces: Khuzestan, Bushehr, Hormuzgan, Sistan and Baluchestan (in the south and east) and Golestan province (in the north of Iran)," he said. He added that in some cases initial steps have been taken and agreements had been signed with contractors to launch the projects.

Currently, the only operating NPP in Iran is the first stage of the Bushehr NPP, built with Russian assistance. Rosatom is currently building the second stage of the power plant (the second and third power units) with a total capacity of 2,100 MW. Iran also has a small, ageing research reactor – the 5MWt Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) supplied by the US in 1967.

However, in 2022, Iran said it had begun work on a domestic nuclear power plant with a capacity of 360 MWe in Darkhovin. Eslami said: “Previously it was assumed that the power plant would be built with the help of foreign states. However, we have revised this approach and set the task of building a completely Iranian NPP in order to become one of the countries with such industries." Iran has also begun construction of a 10 MW pool-type light water reactor nuclear research reactor of its own design in Isfahan. The reactor is designed for 20% enriched fuel and will be used to test nuclear fuel and materials, for the production of medical isotopes, as well as for research using neutron beams. "The design and construction of this reactor is entirely the work of our nuclear scientists," said Eslami,

In the 1980s Iran had started construction of a 40 MWt indigenously designed natural uranium heavy water research reactor at Arak. Construction began in 2004 and the IR-40 reactor was 63% complete in 2009 and the reactor vessel was installed in 2013. However, Iran agreed to restructure it under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), reached between Iran and major world states in 2015. The redesign, supported by experts from the UK and China under the JCPOA, was intended to reduce the amount of plutonium the heavy water reactor could produce. In 2019, former AEOI head Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran had purchased spares to replace the core, and in September 2021, Eslami, said the IR-40 should be made operational "as soon as possible”.

Image: The Arak Nuclear Complex in Iran