In 2018, Iran informed the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it was planning to “construct naval nuclear propulsion in the future.” But could Iran feasibly manufacture a nuclear submarine?
The Exclusive Sub Club
The history of nuclear underwater propulsion began sixty-five years ago. In 1955 with the USS Nautilus. The Nautilus was an American submarine, and the world’s first nuclear submarine. Nuclear submarines totally changed the face of both naval warfare writ large and underwater warfare, specifically.
Nuclear submarines, naturally, do not have to refuel—at least not even as close to as often as diesel-electric submarines, which are dependent on a carbon-based fuel source.
No, nuclear submarines are limited only by the amount of food they carry, and—given an unlimited amount of food—could theoretically stay underwater nearly indefinitely. Nuclear submarines are also faster than their non-nuclear counterparts and, because they do not need to surface, are much better protected.
To this day only a handful of countries are in the nuclear submarine club—the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and India (although it should be pointed out that the Indian nuclear submarines are on lease from Russia, with the option of purchase after the lease is up).
Could Iran actually join the ranks of the nuclear sub club? There are several problems. First, regardless of the nuclear question, is Iran’s domestic manufacturing capabilities.