Iran, Angered Over Obama's Renewal of Sanctions, says it will develop nuclear-powered warships

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani orders nuclear-fuelled warships

Is this a violation of JCPOA?

1 Answer 1


Note: It is almost always a good idea to link to the source of the news, to better address the points noted there.

Technically, it does not violate the deal because the deal forbids Iran to enriching Uranium, not to develop power plants. The main way of ensuring that are the ongoing IAEA missions, that so far have raised no warning signs.

That said, experts seem to agree that:

  • power plants for nuclear vessels needs a supply of Uranium enriched beyond what the JCPOA agreed to, even if way under the grade needed for weapon building. So basically, they are vowing to develop ships that, under JCPOA, they would be unable to provide fuel for.

  • developing such ships is not an easy task, it is expensive and may take up to a decade. It does need not only of the ships themselves, but also of very specific port structures.

  • from an strategic point of view it is a dead end. Nuclear powered vessels are used for ships that need long range, and the Iranian Navy lacks the capacity to supply and operate those ships, (very few countries do have that capability, see Blue-water Navy).



It is not a nice gesture, but it can be understood as a reply to the US Senate resolution of 1, Dec (which, in turn, is not a nice gesture but does not violate the JCPOA, either). Similarly to the US Senate resolution, it allows Iran politicians to show off a hard stance to silence their critics, without actually committing them to violate the JCPOA or changing the status quo.

  • Great answer. There are only two countries which have nuclear warships in the world and I strongly doubt Iran has the technology and money to build it. Cost outweighs benefit. I think your last sentence provides the reason. Iran might be trying "to give some warnings to Trump".
    – Rathony
    Dec 14, 2016 at 9:47
  • @Rathony I might be wrong, but I read it more as a way to deflect internal critics by Iranian hardliners; after all there is actually very little that Iran can threaten the USA with (leaving the JCPOA will automatically kick in back the sanctions or even more, so it will be far worse for Iran than for the USA).
    – SJuan76
    Dec 14, 2016 at 10:19
  • I agree with you. Iran has both internal and external forces to deal with. Not an easy position for the leadership.
    – Rathony
    Dec 14, 2016 at 10:20
  • Your first bullet contradicted by the second bullet. The deal expires in 10-15 years, so if developing nuclear navy would take so long, then JCPOA restrictions would no longer be in place by the time the fuel would be needed. Also, bullet #3 is valid but there are SOME advantages to nuclear powered vessels, even for non-blue-water Navy (granted, they are much smaller and probably not worth the investment). Real answer seems to be the last paragraph - it's more of a symbolic gesture.
    – user4012
    Dec 14, 2016 at 20:20
  • 1
    @user4012 the answer is meant to review ALL the main issues in the info I found, not to support just only one narrative -I try to understand other people POVs and not to just dismiss what I do not like-. So, yes, the points are not coherent and they are not meant to be. Point 1 explains why some people can have legitimate issues with Iran announcement even if it does not violate the JCPOA, as it could signal a future attempt to break it. The other points show that, if those were Iran intentions, the less "profitable" way of violating the JCPOA would be through a nuclear vessel.
    – SJuan76
    Dec 14, 2016 at 20:34

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