Iran announced that China has agreed to assist in the building of five new nuclear plants across the country, according to Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI).
Iran plans to enlist the Chinese in the construction of five new nuclear plants similar in size and scope to the plant currently operating near Bushehr.
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Iran’s insistence on building more nuclear power plants has become a key concern for critics of the Obama administration’s diplomacy with the Islamic Republic, as these nuclear structures could potentially be used to assist its nuclear weapons program.
The Obama administration has said in the past that the construction of light water reactors such as the one in Bushehr does not violate existing United Nations restrictions or the interim accord struck with the country in 2013.
Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the AEOI, announced on Tuesday that Iran is pursuing at least five new nuclear power plants to produce nuclear fuel at an "industrial scale."
"The Islamic Republic of Iran plans to produce at least 190,000 SWUs (Separative Work Units) of nuclear fuel at the industrial scale, while we also think about 1,000,000 SWUs, which will be needed to fuel 5 power plants like Bushehr," Kamalvandi was quoted as saying during an address Tuesday in Tehran at an event described by the state-controlled Fars News Agency as an "Analysis of Lausanne Statement."
Russia has already helped to start construction of at least two plants in southern Iran, while the Chinese will assist with the rest, Kamalvandi revealed.
"This is the reason why we have inked an agreement with the Russians to construct two nuclear power plants for the generation of electricity while the Chinese will also enter this arena soon," he was quoted as saying.
Touching on the contents of a recently agreed to framework nuclear deal with the United States, Kamalvandi said Tehran will retain the Fordow nuclear enrichment facility—a former military site—and operate more than 1,000 centrifuges there.
Nuclear research and development work also will continue and return to full capacity after around 10 years, he said.
In addition to the light water reactors, Iran plans to build "small nuclear power plants" around the Persian Gulf area for the reported purpose of desalinating water, Fars reported.
"The AEOI plans to build small power plants in the Southern parts of the country for desalination purposes. Construction of such power plants are on the agenda and will be materialized in the next few years," Fars quoted Kamalvandi as saying.
When asked about Iranian efforts to build new nuclear reactors, the State Department has said that this type of work is still permissible under existing agreements.
"In general, the construction of light water nuclear reactors is not prohibited by U.N. Security Council resolutions, nor does it violate the [interim agreement," a State Department official told the Washington Free Beacon in January.
"We have been clear in saying that the purpose of the negotiations with Iran is to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program remains exclusively for civilian, peaceful purposes," the official said at the time. "The talks that we have been engaged in for months involve a specific set of issues relative to closing off all possible pathways to Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb. That remains our focus."
Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser, said that years of diplomacy with Iran have nearly unraveled a sanctions regime that brought the Iranian economy to its knees.
"Obama’s partisans like to bash Republicans as anti-diplomacy and they vilify men like [former U.N. Ambassador] John Bolton," Rubin said. "But it was John Bolton who crafted unanimous and near unanimous U.N. Security Council Resolutions to bring Iran to its knees, while it is the likes of Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry who have unraveled multilateral pressure and opened the floodgates both to Iranian enrichment and to adversaries like China and Russia to jump in with deals that make Iranian cheating even easier."
"For all their rhetoric and fawning press, Obama and Kerry have confirmed themselves as the real JV team in the region," Rubin said.