BUSHEHR, Iran (Dispatches) -- Iran began pouring concrete Sunday for a second nuclear reactor, a key step in building the facility with Russian help in the southern port of Bushehr.
Trucks with spinning concrete mixers poured their slurry into the prepared base of the second reactor as journalists watched in Bushehr. The new reactor is set to be completed by 2023 and plans for building a third nuclear station are already being developed.
"Nuclear power provides reliable electricity... and each power plant saves us 11 million barrels of oil or $660 million per year,” Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said in a televised ceremony.
Officials say the new reactor, and a third planned to be built, will each add over 1,000 megawatts to Iran's power grid. It is being built with the help of Russia, which helped finally put Bushehr's first reactor online in 2011 after decades of delays.
The United States has spent years grudgingly accepting operation of the plant.
President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from that deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2018 and reimposed sanctions under a "maximum pressure" campaign targeting Iran.
In retaliation, Iran has increased uranium enrichment beyond levels set out in their 2015 nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers to feed the Bushehr plant.
Iranian officials have said they resumed enrichment of uranium at the Fordow nuclear facility on November 7 in their latest break with the terms of the JCPOA.
Iran began 4.5 percent enrichment in part to supply Bushehr despite the deal limiting it to 3.67 percent.
"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 road map," Salehi said at the Bushehr ceremony.
Salehi, speaking to reporters, praised the plant's operations. "The security of this power plant has been provided by the armed forces and its safety has been endorsed by international institutions," he said.
That appeared to be a dig at Persian Gulf Arab states opposed to Tehran, who earlier raised concerns to the IAEA that Bushehr was a risk to the wider region over earthquakes that routinely hit Iran. The facility withstood earthquakes in the past and is built to resist damage from a temblor.
Salehi also offered Iran's help to neighboring Arab nations, noting the United Arab Emirates' nuclear power plant in Barakah had seen years of delays.