This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Iran says it plans to build a new research reactor at its nuclear site in Isfahan Province, with construction set to start in the next several weeks.
“This is an entirely domestic project that will close the chain of research, evaluation, testing, and production of nuclear energy in Iran,” Mohammad Eslami, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency on July 28.
Eslami, who is also vice president in Iran, added that research into finding suitable locations for new nuclear sites, especially in the south of the country, has begun. He did not elaborate.
Western concerns over Iran’s atomic program led to sanctions against Tehran and eventually a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers to curb the program.
However, then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018, prompting Tehran to gradually break from compliance with the accord. Talks to restore the deal have been stalled since April.
Iran says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, but it is now enriching uranium to up to 60 percent purity — its highest level ever and a short technical step from weapons-grade levels of 90 percent.
The International Atomic Energy Agency announced in June that 90 percent of Iran’s most-enriched uranium has been transferred to the Isfahan Atomic Center, where the equipment for converting uranium gas into uranium metal is located.
Iran turned off the surveillance cameras at several nuclear facilities last month in response to a resolution from the IAEA board of governors demanding it cooperate with UN inspectors looking into undeclared nuclear sites.
The IAEA has warned several times that Iran needed only a few more weeks to produce raw material for a nuclear bomb.