Russia to build eight more reactors in Iran

11 November 2014

UPDATED - This article has been updated with further details from the agreement between Russia and Iran.

Russia has agreed to build up to eight new nuclear power reactor units in Iran - four at Bushehr and four at another, yet to be determined site.

rosatom iran reactor 460
Salehi (left) and Kirienko sign agreements for up to eight new Iranian reactors
(Image: Rosatom)

The agreement – one of a series of documents broadening the cooperation of Russia and Iran in the field of the peaceful use of atomic energy - was signed in Moscow by Sergey Kirienko, Rosatom director general, and Ali-Akbar Salehi, vice-president of Iran and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI).

Kirienko and Salehi signed a protocol to the intergovernmental agreement between the two countries concerning cooperation in construction of a nuclear power plant in Iran of 25 August, 1992 and the interagency memorandum of understanding concerning the broadening of their cooperation in the peaceful use of atomic energy.

In their presence, a contract for construction of two power units for Bushehr Phase II was signed by the heads of Rosatom subsidiary NIAEP-ASE and the Nuclear Power Production and Development Company of Iran.

Bushehr is in the southwest of Iran, on the Persian Gulf.

Rosatom said that, according to the protocol to the intergovernmental agreement, the parties intend to cooperate in construction of an additional four power units with VVER reactors on a turn-key basis at the site of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, as well as four similar power units on another site in Iran, to be determined by the Iranian party at a later date.

The parties "intend to ensure the maximum possible participation of enterprises and organizations of the Islamic Republic of Iran in all works related to the construction of new power units on the sites, their operation and decommissioning," Rosatom said.

The entire construction project of the nuclear power units in Iran, including equipment and nuclear fuel supplies, will be under the IAEA safeguards and fully meet the nuclear nonproliferation regime the same way as during construction of the first power unit of Bushehr nuclear power plant, it added.

Under the protocol, Rosatom will provide nuclear fuel "throughout the entire lifecycle" of the eight new power units. Used nuclear fuel will be returned to Russia for reprocessing and storage.

Rosatom will arrange the training of Iranian specialists in the operation, servicing and corresponding engineering support for the new plants, as well as in the field of regulation of nuclear and radiation safety.

According to the text of the signed memorandum, the two sides have "confirmed their intent to cooperate in the field of the nuclear fuel cycle and ecology", Rosatom said. In particular, they plan "to go into the issue of the economic expediency and feasibility of fabricating fuel rod components in Iran, which will be used at these power units."

Unit 1 at the Bushehr nuclear power plant is a VVER V-446 pressurised water reactor unit, which began commercial operation in September 2013.

Representatives from the AEOI and Rosatom met in Tehran on 12 March to discuss their continued cooperation under an accord signed in 1992.

An AEOI spokesman said that meeting had resulted in the two parties initialling a draft agreement for the construction of two more reactors of at least 1000 MWe each at the existing Bushehr plant. Two desalination plants would also be part of the overall project.

German constructor Siemens KWU began work on two pressurized water reactors at the Bushehr site on the Persian Gulf in 1975, but work was abandoned in 1979. In 1994, Russia agreed with the AEOI to complete Bushehr unit 1 as a VVER-1000 unit, using mostly the infrastructure already in place. This plan also necessitated major changes, including fabrication of all the main reactor components in Russia under a construction contract with AtomStroyExport.

After years of delay, the Bushehr plant was finally connected to the grid on 4 September 2011, supplying around 60 MWe. Output from the 1000 MWe reactor has since been gradually increased, reaching full capacity in September 2013. Russia is supplying fuel to Bushehr which, once used, will be returned to Russia for reprocessing and storage.


The protocol is "set to transform" the energy infrastructure and economy of Iran, which is around 90% dependent on domestically-produced oil and gas for its electricity, Rosatom said in a separate statement giving further details of the protocol. As many as nine million homes in Iran will be supplied with electricity by the expanded nuclear facilities, meeting around a third of the country's power needs and enabling its hydrocarbon reserves to be conserved for future export.

The further expansion of the Bushehr plant is the "cornerstone" of the agreement, Rosatom said. It is the only civilian nuclear power facility in operation in the Middle East, and with a 1 GWe VVER-1000 reactor, today supplies one million Iranian homes.

The "exact type" of the two further VVER nuclear reactors to be built at Bushehr "in the short term", as well as the financial terms and timetable of the project, will be agreed "in the coming months", Rosatom said. Two further reactors will be built at Bushehr "in the medium term". A new seawater desalination plant is "under consideration" that would be powered by the expanded nuclear power plant. In addition, the parties agreed to develop "an entirely new” nuclear plant, with four VVER reactors, at another site.

Kirienko said in the company statement that the projects will "deliver transformational social, economic and environmental benefits" for Iran.

The separate MoU will see the parties work together "on the feasibility of assembling fuel bundles in Iran, which will be economic once all eight new reactors are grid-connected, and reflects a global trend towards localized assembly in nuclear fuel supply," Rosatom said.

Under licence by Rosatom, production of fuel assemblies for VVER units began at the Yibin Nuclear Fuel Factory in China in 2010, and the company has agreements to develop similar facilities in Ukraine and South Africa.

Rosatom's nuclear fuel manufacturing subsidiary, TVEL, will supply Iran with complete fuel assemblies for the eight reactors for the whole period of their operation.

According to the text of the protocol, the Iranian party shall ensure that the nuclear fuel "shall be used exclusively" at Bushehr and the other yet-to-be-determined site for the new reactors.

The protocol also states that, to initiate negotiations on development of a general contract on construction of the first two of four additional units at Bushehr, Russia will provide Iran with a technical-commercial proposal and the draft of the general contract within six months of Iran's decision on its preferred type of reactor.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News