After a successful anti-terrorism synergy, Tehran and Moscow on Saturday capped off relations with a decade-long cooperation to construct two new nuclear power plants on the coasts of the Persian Gulf more than one year after the landmark nuclear deal.
Sergei Kiriyenko (L), the head of Russia's Federal Atomic Agency, shakes hands with Ali Akbar Salehi, the director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, at the ceremony on September 10, 2016 to begin building Iran's second nuclear power plant, near the southern port city of Bushehr, Iran.
"According to the timetable envisaged, the first and second units will be constructed respectively over 108 and 126 months with the cooperation of Russia's State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom)," Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said while attending a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the launch of construction of the two new nuclear power plants.
The agreement with Russia's State Atomic Energy Corporation marks the second cooperation between the two countries since 1992 when the Russian company started completing the Bushehr nuclear power plant, first initiated by a German partner before the 1979 revolution.
The 1,000-megawatt plant, which is operating under the full supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, reached its maximum power generation capacity in August 2012.
Two year after the successful operationalization of the project, Tehran and Moscow showed more seriousness to start new projects.
"In 2014, Iran and Russia signed three documents, one contract, one protocol, and one memorandum of understanding, in Moscow to construct the new units, paving the way for peaceful nuclear cooperation between the two countries to enter into a strategic, new phase," Salehi explained. Iranian nuclear chief says, "In 2014, Iran and Russian signed three documents, one contract, one protocol, and one memorandum of understanding, in Moscow to construct the new units, paving the way for peaceful nuclear cooperation between the two countries to enter into a strategic, new phase."
However, no concrete steps were taken, influenced by pressure on the Kremlin by the West, until the situation changed as Iran and six global powers thrashed out a deal on Tehran's nuclear program in July 2015.
"Where we stand now is the outcome of the JCPOA," Salehi underscored, expressing thanks to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and all others for nuclear negotiations with world powers.
The nuclear compounds benefit Iran economically and environmentally in the long-term.
The two units will add over 2,000 megawatts (MW) of nuclear power generating capacity over a ten-year period, according to Salehi, a project which will require a whopping amount of $10 billion.
Also, the units once constructed will help Iran curb greenhouse gas emissions to the equivalent of 14 million tons, what Salehi, a nuclear physicist, hailed as "environmentally important."
As a spin-off of the project, desalinations facilities with a daily capacity of 200,000 cm will be established, which can lower costs affiliated with water supply for southern cities of the semi-arid country, the nuclear chief pointed out.
The event comes days after a confidential report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) seen by Reuters says that Iran has kept to the nuclear deal it clinched with six world powers last year.
While closer relations between Tehran and Moscow do benefit the sides, Iranians would expect a different face of Moscow, a more committed and less opportunistic one.
Unlike the sanctions era, analysts say, Moscow is not the only partner Tehran has at its disposal now that the nuclear pact has given Iran more leeway to pick nuclear partners.
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