To secure the power grid in Iran, the country has begun to look towards an unlikely partnership for support. Russia has stepped in to support the long-term power needs of the nation via their nuclear power program. The Russians are now poised to complete an atomic build worth $20 billion. This is a massive partnership between the two countries that may change the face of international relations as well.
The $20 billion project will include completing two new reactors at the Bushehr nuclear power plant. The construction is set to start in the next week as confirmed by Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. The two new reactors join several Russian built units already in place. Iran is hoping at some point to expand its nuclear power grid to include a total of 9 Russian reactors.
The new reactors will join existing reactors built by Russia in southern Iran. The agreement between officials in Tehran and Moscow was a year in the making. The formal agreement was signed last year, but there was a delay in building. The deal that will enable construction to begin in the next week is the first in a series of build contracts. Other contracts include working on future reactors to add even more to the reliability of the power system.
While the nuclear power system is increasing, an agreement between Iran and world powers all but put an end to their nuclear weapons program. For the last decade, the development of the Tehran nuclear program was a sticking point for many within the world community. The groundbreaking accord meant that Iran was scaling back its nuclear program. This limits its ability to build nuclear weapons. The agreement was signed in July.
The agreement to scale back nuclear development does not include civilian nuclear plants. This is why they can continue to build reactors while scaling back the rest of their nuclear program. Russia has signed on to make the reactors, but they are not paying for the build. It is being bankrolled by Iran entirely according to Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia’s state nuclear company Rosatom.
Under the July agreement, Tehran agreed to slash the number of centrifuges in Iran by 66%. This is significant when one considers what the machine is used for.
A centrifuge can be used for both civilian and weapons use, but for the most part; people associate the tool with weapon use. This machine helps to purify uranium to make it usable in both arms and reactors.
The agreement not only slowed down the threat of weapon development in Iran but also seemed to foster several countries easing up on sanctions against Iran. Russia and Iran worked together recently to explore new business opportunities as these restrictions become a thing of the past. It was not that long ago that Russian companies were banned from working with Iran, but now they are working together to do some updates that “…help modify centrifuges at the Fordo enrichment site and help Tehran redesign it’s Arak heavy water reactor.”
To decrease its dependence on both oil and gas, Iran plans to build a total of 20 new nuclear power plants. There will be four more sites in Bushehr alone. The negotiations to have these facilities constructed has taken two years and was supported by Russian authorities.
Working to make their overall power grid stronger has been an ongoing focus in Iran, although recent issues worldwide with natural disasters seem to make it a more significant focus now. We have seen how devastating an outdated system can be as the power grid in Peurto Rico is still in shambles after Hurricane Maria. Failing power grids also can become a target for those wanting to wage war as it is easy to take down the entire network with modern weapons.
Beyond the business opportunity for Russian companies to make billions in profits from the Iran nuclear program, the emerging support also seems to be changing the way the two countries interact. The pair recently worked together to support Syria as it battled jihads. Syrian President Bashar Assad enjoyed a fair amount of support against the Islamic State organization.