State Department Spokesman John Kirby Addresses Iran's Decision to Pursue Naval Nuclear Propulsion

December 13, 2016

QUESTION: Iran. The president, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced today that he’s basically ordered Iranian scientists to start developing a nuclear-powered marine vessel, and it’s unclear if this would be a submarine or a boat. I realize that the White House said earlier today that they don’t view this as a violation of the JCPOA, but given that several experts say that these sorts of nuclear projects for such vessels could be an excuse to enrich uranium to a higher level than that allowed by the JCPOA, is that something that you all view with concern?

MR KIRBY: Well, I think you said – you said them, and you’re right; the White House addressed this. I mean, this announcement itself does not constitute a violation. I think there’s a lot we just don’t know. I mean, this announcement just got made. There’s a lot we don’t know about it and what it means. And so I think we’d have to reserve some judgment here about the degree to which this could present any kind of problem.

The second thing I would say is that the – we’re very comfortable in the authorities and the abilities of the IAEA to continue to inspect and analyze compliance with the JCPOA by Iran. This is the toughest inspection regime ever put in place on a deal like this, and thus far, the IAEA has been able to do that job of compliance, and we have every expectation that going forward they’ll be able to do that. So I think I’ll leave it at that. We just sort of need to see what this means. And it’s just an announcement today about pursuing marine nuclear propulsion. Without any specificity to it, it’s difficult for us to make a specific judgment at this time. Again, speaking as a former naval officer, I can tell you that my son is in the nuclear propulsion program in the Navy. It’s – that is a massive undertaking for any nation and is likely decades in the effort to begin to realize it.