Iran begins construction of new 5,000 MW nuclear plant

6 February 2024

Ground has been broken for the construction in Iran of a new NPP at Sirik in the southern coastal province of Hormozgan. The head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI), Mohammad Eslami, made the announcement during a second visit of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his administration officials to Hormozgan province. President Raeisi launched the "Iran-Hormoz" project through a video call, as part of his administration's trip to the province while Eslami and other officials attended the ceremony at the plant's location in Sirik city.

The 5,000 MWe plant, estimated at $15bn, is part of broader plans to develop the Makran coastal region, Eslami noted. It is part of a long-term target to construct 20,000 MWe of nuclear capacity and to develop Iran’s nuclear industry in the next two decades.The Iran-Hormoz Plant is designed to have four 1,250 MWe units.

“By the year 2041, we should reach the generation capacity of 20,000 MWe nuclear electricity in the country, and the realisation of this goal has been taken into consideration in the Makran coast of Hormozgan Province,” Eslami said. “It is hoped that it will be completed as planned and coordinated and based on scheduled timing.”

He added: “To date we have delivered the suitable land for the construction of the plants in Hormozgan province, and its detailed studies have begun and are progressing. On this site, an industrial town must be created so that we can implement and pursue projects of such magnitude according to the set timeline.” He noted that this should include infrastructure facilities and specialised training capacities for human resources during construction and operation of the plant.

According to AEOI’s Centre for Public Diplomacy & Information of the project “is in line with the implementation of the recommendations and recommendations of the Supreme Leader (Mazul al-Ali) and based on the strategic document for the development of the nuclear industry”.

Iran already has one Russian-designed VVER-1000 unit operating at the Bushehr NPP, with two more units under construction. In addition, it is constructing an indigenously designed NPP at Dharkovin on the Karun river. In his address, President Raeisi said: “We have no doubt that what started in Bushehr, Hormozgan and other areas will be quickly followed.”

Bushehr unit 1, built by Rosatom, began in 2011 and reached full capacity the following year. Rosatom subsidiary ASE, which is the general contractor for the Bushehr project, and Nuclear Power Production and Development Company of Iran signed an EPC turnkey contract for construction of two more VVER-1000 reactors – Bushehr 2&3 – in 2014 and preliminary work began at the site in December 2016. In March 2017, construction officially began of the two units and pouring of first concrete for Bushehr 2 took place in November 2019. The units were planned to be commissioned in 2024 and 2026 but faced delays due to Covid-19 and financial difficulties.

Eslami said in October 2023 that construction work at the two Bushehr reactors had increased ten-fold compared with previous years. “Those involved in the project have been working round the clock in three shifts." He added that hoped first concrete would soon be poured for the third unit. "We hope that the second unit will be completed and inaugurated in less than five years and the third unit 1.5 years after that," he said.

Site work is also underway for the construction of a NPP at Dharkovin on the Karun river, in Khuzestan province. AEOI said in December 2022 that construction of a 300 MWe domestically designed pressurised water reactor (PWR) had begun. The Darkhovin NPP will be built about 70 kilometres from the southwestern city of Ahvaz in the provincial capital of Khuzestan. Eslami said construction is expected to take eight years at an estimated cost of $1bn. In March 2023, Eslami explained that this was just the first stage of a 2,000MWe plant.

"Our enemies tried to break our will using sanctions and refused to cooperate in the construction of an NPP for many years," he stated, noting that sanctions began in 1979. However, AEOI developed the project by relying on domestic capabilities. Before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran had signed a $2bn contract with France’s Framatome to build two PWRs at Darkhovin. However, France subsequently withdrew from the project and completed components of the plant remained in France. Then in 1992 former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani agreed a plan with China, despite US objections, to buy two 300 MWe reactors for Darkhovin, but the Chinese also subsequently withdrew from the project under pressure from Washington. Iran also signed up Zurich-based ABB as a consultant, but the Swiss-Swedish company similarly withdrew several times before finally quitting in 2018 in face of US sanctions.

Iranian officials said Tehran plans to become a hub for designing and building NPPs in the near future. They believe the ongoing global fuel crisis had made the use of nuclear energy more relevant. Eslami said all countries, including Iran, are entitled to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and that Iran intends to exercise that right.

Image: Construction of a new nuclear power plant has started in the city of Sirik in Iran

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