By Nasser Karimi
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s nuclear chief said Sunday that the Islamic Republic needs more nuclear power plants, the country’s official news agency reported, just after it struck a deal regarding its contested nuclear program with world powers.
Ali Akbar Salehi said the additional nuclear power would help the country reduce its carbon emissions and its consumption of oil, IRNA reported. He said Iran should produce 150 tons of nuclear fuel to supply five nuclear power plants.
“We should take required action for building power plants for 20,000 megawatts of electricity” in the long term, Salehi said.
The comments come after Iran agreed to freeze part of its nuclear program in return for Western powers easing crippling economic sanctions.
The deal requires Iran to cap its uranium enrichment level at 5 percent, far below the 90 percent threshold needed for a warhead. That 5 percent uranium can be used at nuclear power plants.
Iran also pledged to “neutralize” its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium — the highest level acknowledged by Tehran — by either diluting its strength or converting it to fuel for research reactors, which produced isotopes for medical treatments and other civilian use.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Western powers fear Iran could use its nuclear program to make atomic weapons.
Iran’s only nuclear power plant, near the southern port of Bushehr, produces some 1,000 megawatts of electricity. The plant came online with help from Russia, which will provide fuel for it through 2021.
Salehi said Iran is in talks with several countries — including Russia — to build four more nuclear power plants to produce 5,000 megawatts of power in the near future. He said he asked moderate President Hassan Rouhani to include a line of credit in next year’s budget for expanding nuclear power plants.