In Brief

Russia signs controversial deal to build nuclear reactors in Iran

The deal between Moscow and Tehran has 'set alarm bells ringing' in the West and could jeopardise talks

Chief executive officer of ROSATOM Sergey Kirienko and Iranian Vice-President Ali-Akbar Salehi

Russia has agreed to build several nuclear reactors in Iran, just two weeks before international talks on reducing the country's nuclear capabilities are set to conclude.

Officials in Moscow and Tehran agreed to the construction of two nuclear reactors in Bushehr, with scope for up to six more across the country after the first two are complete.

At the signing of the deal, Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi described it as "a turning point in the development of relations between our countries". 

Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear power company has said the reactors represent a "peaceful use" of atomic energy. It says the construction of the plants will be entirely supervised by the global watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to ensure that the nuclear non-proliferation agreements are met.

Russia, which currently holds roughly 40 per cent of the world’s uranium enrichment capacity, has also promised to remove the uranium fuel it supplies once the reactors have been built. This, it says, will ensure that they are not used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons, the New York Times reports.

However, the timing of the deal has "raised eyebrows" in the West. In two weeks, long running talks between Iran and six world powers – the US, the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia – are expected to reach their conclusion.

World leaders had been hoping that Iran would finally sign a deal to scale back its nuclear programme. In exchange, international sanctions against the nation were to be loosened.

The possibility that fuel rod components could be built in Iran has "set alarm bells ringing" across Europe and in Washington, according to the Financial Times. "Any bilateral deal that allows Iran to continue an indigenous enrichment programme could jeopardise the entire P5+1 talks".

The breakdown in relations between Russia and the West has raised concerns that the talks could be affected.  Some analysts have suggested that Russia would not benefit from the lifting of sanctions against Iran, as the surge in Iranian oil would lower oil prices and worsen Russia's economic problems.

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