Russia says to start up Iran Bushehr plant August 21

MOSCOW Fri Aug 13, 2010 3:42pm EDT

A general view shows the nuclear power plant in Bushehr, about 1,215 km (755 miles) south of Tehran, November 30, 2009. REUTERS/Vladimir Soldatkin

A general view shows the nuclear power plant in Bushehr, about 1,215 km (755 miles) south of Tehran, November 30, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Vladimir Soldatkin

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Friday it will begin loading nuclear fuel into the reactor of Iran's first atomic power station on August 21, an irreversible step marking the start-up of the Bushehr plant after nearly 40 years of delays.

Russia agreed in 1995 to build the Bushehr plant on the site of a project begun in the 1970s by German company Siemens, but delays have haunted the $1 billion project and diplomats say Moscow has used it as a lever in relations with Tehran.

The United States has criticized Moscow for pushing ahead with the Bushehr project at a time when major powers including Russia are pressing Tehran to allay fears that its nuclear energy program may be geared to develop weapons.

But Western fears that the Bushehr project could help Iran develop a nuclear weapon were lessened when Moscow reached an agreement with Tehran obliging it to return spent fuel to Russia. Weapons-grade plutonium can be derived from spent fuel rods.

The U.S. State Department said it did not regard Bushehr as a proliferation risk, but emphasized that broader concerns remained about the direction of Iran's nuclear program.

"Russia's support for Bushehr underscores that Iran does not need an indigenous enrichment capability if its intentions are purely peaceful," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement in Washington, noting the Russian fuel deal for Bushehr mirrored a broader fuel swap proposal that Western powers have offered Iran in hopes of halting its domestic enrichment program.

Russian and Iranian specialists are to begin loading uranium-packed fuel rods into the reactor on August 21, a process that will take about 2-3 weeks.

'IRREVERSIBLE STEP'

"This will be an irreversible step," Sergei Novikov, a spokesman for Russia's state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, said by telephone. "At that moment, the Bushehr nuclear power plant will be certified as a nuclear energy installation," he said.

"That means the period of testing is over and the period of the physical start-up has begun, but this period takes about two and a half months," he said, adding that the first fissile reaction would take place in early October.

The head of Iran's nuclear energy agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, said a ceremony inaugurating the plant would be held in late September or early October, when the fuel is moved "to the heart of the reactor."

The reactor will be linked to Iran's electricity grid about six weeks later when it is powered up to a level of 50 percent, Salehi told the semi-official Mehr news agency.

Diplomats say the Bushehr plant, monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, poses little proliferation risk and has no link with Iran's secretive uranium enrichment program, seen as the main "weaponization" threat, at other installations.

The State Department, noting "the world's fundamental concerns with Iran's overall nuclear intentions," said it was important to remember that Iran remained in serious violation of its broader obligations to the IAEA.

Russia started the delivery of nuclear fuel to the Bushehr plant in late 2007 and deliveries were completed in 2008.

Moscow and Washington agree that importing fuel makes unnecessary Iran's own enrichment project -- the main focus of Western concerns that Tehran is trying to make a nuclear bomb.

Iran, the world's fourth-largest crude oil producer, rejects such allegations and says its nuclear program is aimed only at generating electricity or producing isotopes for medical care.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had said on March 18 that Russia planned to start up the reactor at the Bushehr plant in the summer of 2010.

(additional reporting by Andrew Quinn in Washington; editing by Mark Heinrich and Mohammad Zargham)

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Comments (10)
langco wrote:
how long before the bankrupt and leaderless US is forced to sell nuclear technology in order to pay its growing bills?

Aug 13, 2010 1:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
AdamSmith wrote:
During the 1950’s and 1960’s and 1970’s, Russia was part of the Soviet Union, and held the official position that the capitalist/imperialist United States, which led the world in the production of nuclear and chemical weapons, was the enemy of mankind.

Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev famously said, We will bury you. And in response to the US nuclear weapons manufacturing taking place at the Hanford Nuclear Weapons Plants, the Soviet Union began manufacturing its own nuclear weapons.

Yet, with all the radical anti-American bombast from the communist leaders, and thousands of nuclear missles, Russia never bombed the US. Why not?

And today, communist China, which embraces the anti-imperialist ideology, has hundreds of nuclear weapons, but does not use them.

IRAN
My question is this:
Why do American politicians, and major American newspapers, tell us over, and over, and over — that if Iran gets a nuclear weapon it will bomb Israel and America?

Russians have brains, Chinese have brains, but Iranians supposedly have no brains?

The only reasonable explanation I can think of places Israel in a dark light. But maybe I’m missing something.

Aug 13, 2010 1:08pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
bmmiller wrote:
Maybe you missed the statement by the good Iranian president vowing to “Wipe Israel off the face of the earth.”

Aug 13, 2010 3:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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