Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Iran’s Decision to Build Nuclear-Powered Ships Might Lead to 1st Nuclear-Powered Attack Submarine

From Russia

(Photo : IRIN) IRIN Tareq (901) diesel electric submarine.

Iran plans to begin building nuclear reactors and their systems that power ships in a move viewed as Iran's reply to a U.S. Congress decision in November to extend some sanctions on Tehran.

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani ordered Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, to start developing nuclear propulsion capability for marine transportation.

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Rouhani said the move is response to the U.S. Congress' "violation" of the "Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action" or the Iran nuclear deal signed July 2015 by the P5+1 group of China, France, Russia, the UK, and the U.S. plus Germany.

Under the nuclear deal, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium; reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98% and reduce by about two-thirds the number of its gas centrifuges for 13 years. For the next 15 years, Iran will only enrich uranium up to 3.67%.

Iran agreed to the deal in exchange for relief from crippling economic, trade, scientific and military sanctions imposed on it by the U.S. in 1979.

Washington has issued a statement saying this decision by Iran top begin working on a nuclear populsion system doesn't violate the Iran nuclear deal.

"The announcement from the Iranians today (Dec. 13) does not run counter to the international agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," said the White House.

Rouhani described the technology to be developed by Iran today as a "nuclear propeller to be used in marine transportation."

This vague phrase, however, gave no indication is this nuclear reactor is to be used for civilian or military purposes. The phrasing used by Rouhani, however, seems to indicate he also sees a military use for the "nuclear propeller" (or nuclear reactor) to be built by this effort.

Rouhani also ordered planning for production of fuel for nuclear-powered marine vessels "in line with the development of a peaceful nuclear program of Iran."

The Islamic Republic of Iran Navy (IRIN) began working on its first nuclear powered submarine in 2012. In that year, IRIN reported initial steps to design and build nuclear submarine propulsion systems were begun. There has been no public word on the progress of this effort since then, however.

IRIN said a nuclear-powered submarine will give it "very long-distance operations."

The U.S. Department of State said the United States was confident the International Atomic Energy Agency, which inspects Iran's nuclear sites, will be able to analyze Iran's compliance with the deal.

IRIN's most modern submarines are its three Russian-made Kilo-class diesel electric submarines (SSK), the first of which (IRIN Tareq) was commissioned in 1992.

IRIN operates some 30 submarines of various classes. None of these subs is nuclear-powered.

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