Iran marks start of work for Darkhovin plant

06 December 2022

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AOEI) said "construction" of a 300 MWe domestically designed pressurised water reactor (PWR) at a site near the Karun river was launched by the organisation's head, Mohammad Eslami, on 3 December.

The launch was televised by Iranian media (Image: AEOI)

Darkhovin - also spelt Darkhowin - in Khuzestan province in western Iran has long been identified as a potential site for a nuclear power reactor. According to information from World Nuclear Association, construction of two French-designed PWRs started at the site in 1979, only to be cancelled within months. A subsequent plan to build two reactors at the site also foundered when China withdrew from the agreement.

Earlier this year Iranian President Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi announced a nuclear industry strategy for the next 20 years. Construction of the plant aligns with AEOI's mission to produce nuclear electricity through the construction of "indigenous nuclear power plants", the organisation said. The project will take an estimated 8 years and cost USD1.5-2 billion to complete, it added. Iranian companies will build the "fixed mechanical equipment" of the power plant, as well as design and build the primary circuit cooling pumps, it said.

A 915 MWe Russian-designed PWR at Bushehr - built and operated under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards - was connected to the Iranian grid in 2011 and provides about 2% of the country's electricity. Work started on a second unit at the site in 2019.

Iran agreed to limit its other nuclear activities - including uranium enrichment - under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), agreed in 2015 between Iran and the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany. However the USA withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018. Iran subsequently stopped implementing its commitments under the plan, and the IAEA has passed two resolutions this year expressing its concern over the implementation of safeguards away from Bushehr.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News