By Marton Dunai
BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Iran has proposed a project with Hungary to design and develop a small nuclear reactor that could be sold across Asia and Africa and also built in the Islamic republic, Tehran's top nuclear official said on Thursday.
Iran's Ali Akbar Salehi said he envisaged a joint pilot project with Hungary to design a 25-megawatt reactor and then a reactor of up to 100 megawatts, a size he said would be marketable across Asia and Africa.
He told a conference in Budapest that small reactors would be more affordable to poorer countries and require less cooling water, a critical consideration in Africa and Asia.
"One particular project that I suggested was to see if we can... together design a small reactor of 25 megawatts," Salehi said. "It was received well and we hope that we can start this project, just on paper.
"It requires a lot of scientific work to come up with such a design, certainly a number of years of hard work. We want to see if we can do this."
Referring to the lifting of international sanctions on Iran's economy last year, Salehi added: "We intend to fully utilize all commercial and technical opportunities, including the pursuit of peaceful nuclear activities, emanating from this deal."
Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban visited Tehran late last year.
Iran will build two more Russian-designed large reactors in addition to its current single reactor at the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, a project that could take a decade, Salehi said.
"After these three reactors, we have made our decision that we would look into small reactors," he said. "That is our strategy for the future. That takes time (but) we need to develop these modular smaller reactors."
Hungary has a single nuclear reactor at Paks, currently operating four updated Soviet-made reactors, and Budapest has signed an agreement with Russia to double the plant's capacity, using Russian technology and financing.
(Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)