Iran announces construction of two new nuclear plants

Strange happenings in the U.S. nuclear talks with Iran. On one hand both parties are saying that the talks will be accelerated to insure that the March deadline for an agreement framework is met, on the other hand Iran has announced it is increasing its nuclear capacity by building two new plants. CBS News reports that top diplomats of both parties met in Geneva on Wednesday:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif were meeting at a Geneva hotel a day before negotiators from Iran, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany are to resume talks here.

Ahead of the meeting, Zarif said his talks with Kerry would show that both sides understand the importance of picking up the pace.

“I think it’s important,” he told reporters. “I think it will show the readiness of the two parties to move forward to speed up the process.”

According to the Iranian government controlled Far News Agency Iran is also increasing its  nuclear capacity

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced on Tuesday that the country has started building two new nuclear power plants in the Southern province of Bushehr to increase nuclear-generated power output of the country.

“Construction of two new power plants will increase the capacity of Bushehr province’s power generation to 2,000 megawatts,” President Rouhani said in a meeting with investors and economic activists in Bushehr province today. Earlier today, President Rouhani underlined during a visit to the Bushehr nuclear power plant that Iran is pursuing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and said, “The Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant is an example showing that Iran is only looking for a civilian use of the nuclear energy and for power generation.”

The Iranians always say they are building new nuclear infrastructure for peaceful means, but really use it as a pretext for expanding their nuclear  stockpile. And it seems that might be the case with the latest power plants. The Xinhuanet News Agency (China)  reported late last week:

Iran’s atomic chief said on Sunday that Iran must increase its uranium enrichment capacity to 30 tons per year to meet the fuel needs of its Bushehr nuclear power plant, according to Tasnim news agency. Iran is now enriching two and a half tons of uranium per year, while the minimum need is estimated at 30 tons a year, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, said, adding that the West, however, does not agree on that amount.

Iran’s basic argument for maintaining  and expanding their nuclear enrichment capacity is the need to create fuel for reactors. But just like almost every other country in the world, they can get fuel from overseas. Also it seems impossible to reconcile the new construction with their claims that the program is “frozen,” which was the starting point for negotiations and  for the administration’s push against new Congressional action against Iran and what the Administration is using as ammunition to fight new congressional action against Iran. Perhaps its time for the Administration to slow down rather than fast track negotiations.