The first and most serious one was an announcement by the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, that Iran may seek nuclear submarines in the future. This is significant because nuclear submarines require nuclear fuel that is enriched to anywhere between 45 and 90 percent levels, the latter being bomb-grade.
“At present, we have no enrichment plan for purity levels above 20 percent, but when it comes to certain needs, for example, for some ships and submarines, if our researchers need to have a stronger underwater presence, we will have to make small engines which should be fueled by 45 to 56 percent enriched uranium,” Abbasi-Davani said on Tuesday.
The only potential bright spot is that Abbasi-Davani said that future nuclear submarines would be designed to run on the low-end of the nuclear spectrum. Still there is no question that a decision by Iran to move beyond 20 percent uranium would be seen as a major escalation in the ongoing standoff, and one that might prompt Israel or the U.S. to act on their military threats.
It should be noted that it is quite possible (probably even likely) that Abbasi-Davani is bluffing. Iranian officials in the past have suggested Tehran may someday want nuclear submarines, and despite the relative stability of the current standoff Iran has clear interests in ending it given that it is the side suffering economically from sanctions. Thus making this announcement could very well be aimed at forcing the West’s hand in negotiations. This would be consistent with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s recent warningsthat Iran will not negotiate simply for the sake of negotiating.
Full article: Iran’s Nuclear Submarine Gambit (The Diplomat)