Iraq planning to build nuclear reactors with Russian, French help

Iraq planning to build nuclear reactors with Russian, French help
A meeting with Russian officials resulted in a memorandum of understanding that will expedite the construction of the three reactors.
2 min read
23 April, 2021
Iraq's Tammuz testing reactor was destroyed by Israel in 1981 [Getty]
The Iraqi Radioactive Sources Regulatory Authority said on Thursday it is holding talks with Russia, France and the United States of America to discuss the prospect of building three nuclear reactors for civil application. 

The head of the authority, Kamal Hussein Latif, said in an interview with the Iraqi News Agency INA that several preliminary meetings had been held to study the feasibility of setting up nuclear reactors, in accordance with guidelines set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The meetings were accompanied by two site visits to the Russian embassy in Baghdad.

The meetings with Russian officials resulted in a memorandum of understanding, which includes a number of items that will expedite the construction of the reactors, Latif said, adding that another set of meetings was scheduled with the French embassy in Baghdad.

"Our French counterparts are eager to work with Iraq in the peaceful use of nuclear energy and we are waiting to obtain full approval before releasing more details on this cooperation," he said.

The head of the authority added that a meeting with US officials had been requested through an authorized high-level delegation and other government agencies.

"We are looking for common ground with our partners in this preliminary phase that precedes the bidding stage," he said. He also hinted at the existence of a plan, yet to be presented to the government, which details the costs of building the nuclear reactors. If approved, its details will be made public, Latif said.

Saaran Al-Aajibi, a member of the Parliamentary Security and Defence Committee, said he was hopeful Iraq will build nuclear reactors similar to those of its neighbours.

Speaking to the New Arab's Arabic-language service, he emphasised that the reactors would be for peaceful purposes, saying that nuclear power was used in many countries to produce electricity and power industrial sites.

In 1981, during the rule of former dictator Saddam Hussein, Israeli airstrikes destroyed an unfinished Iraqi nuclear reactor that was constructed with French help southeast of Baghdad.  

While Aajibi emphasised the benefits of new nuclear reactors he said that that the infrastructure required will put a strain on the government’s finances. 

Electricity shortages have plagued Iraq for decades due to the destruction of infrastructure over years of conflict and rampant corruption.

The UAE has four nuclear power reactors under construction, the first of which came online last year. Egypt, Turkey and Jordan are also pursuing the development of nuclear energy, while Iran's nuclear programme has been the subject of great international scrutiny.

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