TEHRAN - Iran and Russia are to begin construction on two new nuclear reactors at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant, the head of the Atomic Energy Organisation in Tehran said late Wednesday.

The Islamic republic is seeking to reduce its reliance on oil and gas with 20 nuclear facilities planned over the coming years, including nine being built with Russian firms.

“Operations to build two new nuclear power (units) in Bushehr will start on 10 September and it will take 10 years for the power (units) to be completed,” Ali Akbar Salehi said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. He said the new reactors would cost an estimated $10 billion and lead to a saving of 22 million barrels of oil per year.

Russia built the existing 1,000 megawatt reactor at Bushehr on the Gulf coast that came online in 2013.

In November 2014, it signed a “cooperation contract” to help build the two new reactors on the same site, along with plans to eventually construct nine reactors across Iran. Two of these may also come up at Bushehr, taking the total number of reactors at the site to five.

Iran signed a July 2015 nuclear accord with the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia that removed some international sanctions in return for curbs on Tehran’s controversial atomic programme.

Tehran repeatedly fended off Western and Israeli accusations that its programme was aimed at producing a bomb, insisting it is for purely civilian use.