Construction on Iran Nuclear 12/03 07:13
CAIRO (AP) -- Iran on Saturday began construction on a new nuclear power
plant in the country's southwest, Iranian state TV announced, amid tensions
with the U.S. over sweeping sanctions imposed after Washington pulled out of
the Islamic Republic's nuclear deal with world powers.
The announcement also comes as Iran has been rocked by nationwide
anti-government protests that began after the death of a young woman in police
custody and have challenged the country's theocratic government.
The new 300-megawatt plant, known as Karoon, will take eight years to build
and cost around $2 billion, the country's state television and radio agency
reported. The plant will be located in Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province, near
its western border with Iraq, it said.
The construction site's inauguration ceremony was attended by Mohammed
Eslami, head of Iran's civilian Atomic Energy Organization, who first unveiled
construction plans for Karoon in April.
Iran has one nuclear power plant at its southern port of Bushehr that went
online in 2011 with help from Russia, but also several underground nuclear
The announcement of Karoon's construction came less than two weeks after
Iran announced it had begun producing enriched uranium at 60% purity at the
country's underground Fordo nuclear facility. The move is seen as a significant
addition to the country's nuclear program.
Enrichment to 60% purity is one short, technical step away from
weapons-grade levels of 90%. Non-proliferation experts have warned in recent
months that Iran now has enough 60%-enriched uranium to reprocess into fuel for
at least one nuclear bomb.
The move was condemned by Germany, France and Britain, the three Western
European nations that remain in the Iran nuclear deal. Recent attempts to
revive Iran's 2015 nuclear deal, which eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for
curbs on its nuclear program, have stalled.
Since September, Iran has been roiled by nationwide protests that have come
to mark one of the greatest challenges to its theocracy since the chaotic years
after its 1979 Islamic Revolution. The protests were sparked when Mahsa Amini,
22, died in custody on Sept. 16, three days after her arrest by Iran's morality
police for violating the Islamic Republic's strict dress code for women. Iran's
government insists Amini was not mistreated, but her family says her body
showed bruises and other signs of beating after she was detained
In a statement issued by Iran's state-run IRNA news agency on Saturday, the
country's national security council announced that some 200 people have been
killed during the protests, the body's first official word on the casualties.
Last week, Iranian Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh tallied the death toll at more than
The contradictory tolls are lower than the toll reported by Human Rights
Activists in Iran, a U.S.-based organization that has been closely monitoring
the protest since the outbreak. In its most recent update, the group says that
469 people have been killed and 18,210 others detained in the protests and the
violent security force crackdown that followed.
The United States unilaterally pulled out of the nuclear deal -- formally
known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA -- in 2018, under
then-President Donald Trump. It reimposed sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran
to start backing away from the deal's terms. Iran has long denied ever seeking
nuclear weapons, insisting its nuclear program is peaceful.