Iran begins construction on 2nd power reactor as nuclear deal unravels

Iran began pouring concrete Sunday for a second nuclear reactor at its Bushehr power plant, a facility Tehran points to as its reason to break the enrichment limit set by its unraveling 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

While celebrating the start of construction, the politics of the moment weren’t lost on Iranian officials as a U.S. pressure campaign of sanctions blocks Tehran from selling its crude oil abroad. Those sanctions took effect after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in May 2018, lighting the fuse for the current tensions now gripping the wider Mideast.

“It was not us who started breaking commitments, it was them who did not keep to their commitments and cannot accept the nuclear deal as a one-way roadmap,” said Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

Bushehr is fueled by uranium produced in Russia, not Iran, and is monitored by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency. However, Iran began 4.5 per cent enrichment in part to supply Bushehr despite the deal limiting it to 3.67 per cent.

While that’s still nowhere near weapons-grade levels of 90 per cent, nonproliferation experts warn Iran’s growing stockpile and increasing enrichment will begin to shave off time from the estimated year Tehran would need to gather enough material for an atomic bomb.

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