CAIRO ( Associated Press) – Iran broke ground Saturday on a nuclear plant in the southwestern part of the country, Iranian state television reported, amid tensions with the United States following Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear accord. withdrew from the agreement. various world powers.
The announcement came even as Iran was rocked by nationwide anti-government protests that began after the death of a young woman in police custody and challenged the country’s theocratic rule.
The country’s television and radio agency reported that the new 300 MW plant, known as Karoon, would take eight years to build and cost around $2 billion. The plant is being set up in Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province near the border with Iraq.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the construction site was attended by the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Mohammad Eslami, who unveiled plans to build Karoon in April.
Iran already has a nuclear power plant at the southern port of Bushehr, which began operating with Russian help in 2011, but also has several underground nuclear facilities.
Karoon’s creation was announced less than two weeks after Iran said it had begun production of uranium enriched to 60%-purity at the underground Fordo nuclear facility. The move is seen as a significant growth in the country’s nuclear programme.
Enhancements to 60% accuracy are only a small technological step from 90% levels, which is sufficient to develop weapons. Non-proliferation experts have warned in recent months that Iran now has enough 60% enriched uranium to be reprocessed into fuel for at least one nuclear warhead.
Germany, France and Britain, the three Western European countries still in the Iran nuclear deal, condemned the move. Recent efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which eased sanctions imposed on Iran in return for curbing its nuclear program, have stalled.
Iran has seen national protests since September that pose one of the biggest challenges to its democracy since the chaotic years following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The protests escalated when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in custody on 16 September, three days after she was arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly breaking the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women. Iran’s government maintains that Amini was not abused, but her family says her body showed visible bruises and other signs that she had been beaten after her arrest.