In an article on December 14, in Popular Mechanics, by Kyle Mizokami, he writes that there’s good reason to believe this is just bluster, and more than Iran’s military-industrial complex can truly provide. 

The U.S. Senate voted to extend the Iran Sanction Act by 10 years to punish Iran for breaching the nuclear deal, and in response to its association with terrorist groups such as Hezbollah. The act thwarts the development of Iran’s oil industry, targeting both exports to Iran and financial transactions. 

Iran’s indignant President ordered Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization to develop nuclear propulsion for warships. Rouhani stated that the Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action (JCPOA), which is an agreement between Iran and the West that ends Iran’s nuclear weapons research, in return for lifting economic sanctions, but does not block the construction of nuclear-powered warships. 

Mizokami writes, “The world’s first nuclear powered warship was the submarine USS Nautilus. It was commissioned in 1954 and was built in just two years. Could Iran do it too?”  

His answer?  “Maybe, and maybe not.” 

Nuclear propulsion is very different from what Iranian scientists and engineers have been  working on for 20 years — nuclear explosion. However, it has been 60 years since the first nuclear warship, and the technology is dated. Mizokami says that if Iran is as close to a bomb as some think, then it has the know-how to build a nuclear reactor. Still, it would take years to develop and hundreds of millions of dollars to develop.            

Iran is one of the largest petroleum exporters in the world, so why would they want to build nuclear reactors for ships? Mizokami  sees no rational explanation for Rouhani’s decree, except that he is trying to irritate the United States. 

“Iran’s Navy is tiny—after decades of sanctions, it amounts to a collection of small surface warships of questionable quality. The ship above, the frigate Alvand, is one of its largest vessels and yet is just one-quarter the size of the U.S. Navy’s smallest warship, the Littoral Combat Ship. Iran’s Navy also rarely travels outside the Persian Gulf. A warship reactor for such a naval force would be an expensive white elephant. 

This isn’t the first time Iran has announced a dubious weapons system. In 2010, Iran paraded in public what it announced were S-300 surface-to-air missile canisters, canisters which were later accused of just being 55-gallon steel drums welded together. In 2013 Iran announced a new stealth fighter, the Qaher, which was clearly a fake and unable to actually fly. In 2014, Iran announced it built copies of a highly classified RQ-170 Sentinel drone that accidentally crashed in the country in 2011, copies that were later derided as fakes,” Mizokami concluded.