Iran Indicates Plans To Commercialize Nuclear Technology, Sell Heavy Water

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei addresses nuclear scientists and engineers, 11 June 2023.

“If we wanted to build nuclear weapons, we would do it, and they know it.”

In the accompanying excerpted speech from the official website ( of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei addresses Iran’s nuclear program. Khamenei makes a public call to commercialize Iran’s nuclear progress. Specifically, he suggests selling heavy water and nuclear isotopes. Heavy water is a type of water with specific atomic properties useful in the production of nuclear weapons and power. This follows a pattern in which Iran has sought to leverage its indigenous military industry to wean Iran off reliance on outside powers, turning it into a source of hard currency and influence.[i] While Western officials worry about Iran’s military exports—for example, the sale of its drones to Russia and elsewhere—[ii]the proliferation of nuclear goods would raise concern to a new level. Khamenei’s suggestion that Iran make such sales to countries that are its allies would only enhance this concern. Many Iranian allies are either U.S.-designated state sponsors of terrorism, such as Syria, or revisionist states that reject the post-World War II liberal order, such as Cuba and Venezuela.  Syria in 2007 sought to build a plutonium processing plant, allegedly with North Korean assistance. Iranian provision of nuclear goods would complicate operations should Syrian ambitions remain. Iranian export of enriched uranium will increasingly raise the specter of adversarial state and nonstate forces using dirty bombs. Khamenei’s speech also touches on past themes including linking Iran’s prestige to its nuclear program and denying that Iran intends to build nuclear weapons, even though he also acknowledges that Iran could develop nuclear weapons should he make the decision to do so.


“Biyanat dar Didar Daneshmandan, Motakhsasan, Karshenasan va Mosa’valan Sana’at Hasteha-ye Keshavar” (Statements in the meeting of scientists, specialists, experts and officials of the country’s nuclear industry),” (official website of the Iranian supreme leader), 11 June 2023.

… I am truly grateful to the scientists, officials and activists of this industry who prepared this great meeting and this great exhibition for us today; it was a very good exhibition, it was pleasing, encouraging and redeeming. I have prepared a few remarks for you…. The first is about the importance of the nuclear industry. Of course, you know and you know the importance of this industry, but many people do not know the value of the nuclear industry, the various and extensive dimensions of this industry, and its impact on people’s lives and in the progress of the country…. This industry is important to the country’s progress and to the country’s capabilities in sectors such as technology, economy, and health. It brings honor to the country and makes life better for the people, and brings great international prestige to the country. At the same time, the enemies are afraid that other nations might follow the path and the forward-looking mindset of the Iranian nation. In light of these aspects, everyone should acknowledge that the nuclear industry is one of the fundamental and important components of the country’s credibility and the strength and power of the country…. This is also why the enemies are focused on nuclear energy; the reason that we have been challenged for 20 years… They know that we are not looking for nuclear weapons… We oppose mass murder. It is against Islam, whether it is atomic, chemical, or by other means. In the wars of the time of the Prophet, the commander of the faithful, and in early Islam, it was advised to make sure that the water was neither denied to the [enemy] people nor spoiled… [but] if we wanted to go nuclear, they would not be able to stop it, just as they have not been able to stop our nuclear advances so far. If we wanted to build nuclear weapons, we would do it, and they know it…. Today our nuclear facilities and progress are more than a hundred times more than 20 years ago…. Another recommendation is to commercialize nuclear products and services. These developments have good markets in the world and can really benefit the country’s economy and income. Cooperation should be made with countries that do not have a conflict with us in this regard.

“Cheshmandaz Sazman-e Enerzhi Atomi Tajari Kardan Sana’at Hasteha-ye Ast (The Vision of the Atomic Energy Organization [of Iran] is to Commercialize the Nuclear Industry),” Holy Defense News Agency (official news agency of Iran’s Defense Ministry), 12 June 2023.

[Behrouz] Kamalvandi said, “Our vision is to have a strong organization that will take research to the industrial stage and then bring the industry to commerce. The cycle is to research and once research begins, it can’t stop. Following research comes a semi-industrial pilot project, then an industrial project, and then a commercial industry. When we say commercial, this means delivery to the market, whether domestic or international. We now have a good market in “heavy water.” Many companies from different countries want Iranian heavy water and its derivatives, and they are queuing to buy this product.


[i] For example, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran Increased Defense Budget Leading to More Arms Exports,” OE Watch, 04-2023.

[ii] For example, see: Michael Rubin, “Iran Asks Tajikistan Not to Use Iranian Drones in Dispute with Kyrgyzstan,” OE Watch, 01-2022.

Image Information:

Image: Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei addresses nuclear scientists and engineers, 11 June 2023.