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Iranian Nuclear Powered Merchant Ship

In was reported 16 July 2012 that an Iranian parliamentary committee had approved legislation to require the Islamic Republic to design nuclear-powered merchant ships and provide them with nuclear fuel. Iranian military officials had also earlier informed that the country is designing a nuclear submarine. Either step would require Iran to enrich uranium to higher levels than the 20% has already achieve, much closer to weapons-grade. While the United States, Japan, and Germany built experimental nuclear powered merchant ships in the heady days of the 1960s, they were soon retired after a few years of indifferent service. Russia continues to operate a small fleet of nuclear powered icebreakers, but Iran would seem to have little call for icebreakers. Argentina may [or may not] have announced plans for a nuclear powered icebreaker, but this plan, should it exist, is widely regarded as a cover story for an attempt to restart Argentina's nuclear weapons program.

MP Mohammad Bayatian was quoted by Mehr News Agency [MNA] as saying sanctions are forcing Iran to use different fuel for its oil tankers and other large vessels, to avert the need to refuel during long voyages. Another lawmaker, Mehrdad Bazrpash also told FNA that "a bill has come on the agenda of the parliament's Industries Commission which requires the mines and industries sector of the government to seriously focus on new technological plans for oil tankers and warships' engines". Bazrpash said according to the plan, the country's oil tankers and warships should be able to sail long distances without any need to refueling in those countries which refrain from providing Iranian vessels with fuel due to the sanctions. Bayatian said the bill has been approved by a parliamentary committee and will be debated in the house next week. "Given the sanctions that enemies have imposed against our country, the bill must be enacted," he said.

A commentary by, which reflects the views of some Iranian hardliners, notes that "... in recent years several news reports are published from some countries such as the United States and China towards nuclear propulsion for commercial vessels. Progress in the technology of commercial nuclear power leads to lower production costs, increase safety, reduce the need for refueling... [are] the advantage of this type of propulsion for civilian ships. ... Although the cost of building a nuclear propulsion ship relative to fossil fuel with the same overall cost is more, the course of its life is much less than the conventional propulsion.... What should be is the noted amount of enrichment of the nuclear fuel needed for nuclear marine propulsion. For example, the new OK-900A reactors in the Russian fleet ice breakers used fuel of .. an average of 60 percent and a reactor uses on the ship Sevmorput KLT-40, typically with a 30 to 40 percent of the uranium.... So to achieve nuclear propulsion, nuclear industry of the country will inevitably promote the enrichment of nuclear reactors to the amount of average means 50-60%."

Iran's feeble potential for shipbuilding would not plausibly support construction of a nuclear powered commercial surface vessel. Irans technology transfer from China, North Korea and Russia is well known. In addition, its indigenous shipbuilding efforts, while modes, have proven marginally fruitful. But Iran's shipbuilding infrastructure remains rudimentary [primitive is another word that comes to mind], and after a decade of effort less than a handful of commercial ships of an appreciable size have been produced, after quite protracted building schedules. These container ships are perhaps the simplest type of commercial ship design.

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Page last modified: 01-12-2018 17:37:55 ZULU