Iran’s newly elected hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi has appointed Mohammad Eslami as the new chief of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), replacing the nation’s most prominent nuclear scientist with a minister who has no reported experience in nuclear energy but ties to the defence ministry.
Eslami, the former minister of Transport and Urban Development, replaces Ali Akbar Salehi who has served as the AEOI chief since August 2013, reports Xinhua news agency.
The 65-year-old Eslami holds degrees in civil engineering and has also formerly served as the Governor of Iran’s Mazandaran province, a deputy minister of the Ministry of Defence, and the CEO of Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company.
The AEOI is in charge of overseeing the country’s nuclear programs and handling Tehran’s cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog, namely the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The deal curbed Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, but then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the agreement and reimposed crushing sanctions. Iran, in response, has gradually and publicly abandoned all restrictions on its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium.
During the tenure of relatively moderate former President Hassan Rouhani, Eslami served as Transport and Urban Development Minister.
Before joining the Cabinet in 2018, he worked for years in Iran’s military industries, most recently as the deputy defense minister responsible for research and industry. He holds degrees in civil engineering from Detroit University of Michigan and the University of Toledo, Ohio.
Iranian media did not report details of Eslami’s experience in the nuclear field, but his engineering background speaks to the country’s renewed focus on power plant construction at a time when rolling electrical blackouts have plagued the country.
Iran is building two nuclear power facilities to supplement its sole operational 1,000-megawatt reactor at the southern port town of Bushehr, which went online with Russia’s help in 2011.
Under its long-term energy plan, Iran aims to reach 20,000-megawatt nuclear electric capacity.
(With AP inputs)