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Iran begins building four more nuclear power plants

Asia
 A worker rides a bicycle past the Bushehr nuclear power plant, just outside the southern city of Bushehr, Oct. 26, 2010. [File, VOA]

Iran began construction on four more nuclear power plants in the country's south, with expected total capacity of 5,000 megawatts, the official IRNA news agency reported Thursday.

Iran seeks to produce 20,000 megawatts of nuclear energy by 2041.

The country has one active nuclear power plant, a 1,000 megawatt plant that went online with help from Russia in 2011. It's also building a 300-megawatt plant in the oil-rich Khuzestan province, near the western border with Iraq.

The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog said last year that Iran has increased the rate at which it is producing near-weapons grade uranium.

Director General Rafael Grossi said in the report that Iran "in recent weeks had increased its production of highly enriched uranium, reversing a previous output reduction from mid-2023," according to an IAEA spokesperson. Iran had previously slowed the rate at which it was enriching uranium to 60% purity, which is just a short technical step away from the weapons-grade level of 90%.

The West has long suspected that Iran is acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran denies it is seeking such weapons.

IRNA quoted Mohammad Eslami, the head of Iran's atomic agency, saying it will take up to nine years to complete the new plants.

The report said the four new plants are being built in the port town of Sirik on Iran's east coast, about 1,150 kilometers south of the capital, Tehran.

Nasser Shariflou, the head of the project, told IRNA that the project will cost about $20 billion and will create 4,000 jobs. Each plant is expected to use 35 tons of nuclear fuel per year.

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