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article imageRussia says Iran nuclear facility fully operational within weeks

By Lynn Herrmann     May 13, 2011 in Politics
Tehran - Iran’s much-delayed Bushehr nuclear power facility has begun low-level operations for testing and Russia claims the plant is on the “threshold” of being fully operational within weeks, achieving a major milestone in overcoming western propaganda.
The German-designed plant, located at Bushehr along the Arabian Gulf coast, has been brought up to a “minimum controllable level of power,” a spokesman for Atomstroiexport, the Russian company that completed the facility’s construction, said, according to The National. “This means that a nuclear reaction has begun. This is one of the final stages in the physical launch of the reactor,” he added.
State-run RIA quoted Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, as saying: “The final launch of Bushehr is a matter of the coming weeks,” Reuters reports.
“This is a longstanding project and so I would refrain from naming concrete dates -- but we are already on the threshold of the full launch of the reactor,” Ryabkov added.
Iranian and Russian experts completed loading fuel into the reactor earlier this week and on Monday they announced nuclear fuel consumption had begun.
Although the nuclear facility will be operating for two weeks before it can generate electricity, it is expected to connect to the national grid within two months. Tehran claims the plant will produce 1,000 megawatts, around 2.5 percent of Iran’s electricity demand.
The announcement comes after repeated delays to the program, most recently in March when Iran unloaded fuel from the reactor to wash and triple-check fuel rods, action deemed necessary to increase the safety of the plant, according to Fars News Agency (FAN).
Later the same month, the US announced the disruption resulted from its spyware attack program called Stuxnet, but Tehran rejected that claim.
Iran has also confirmed that a second shipment of nuclear fuel from Russia has been received for the nuclear plant. The fuel, shipped by air courier from Russia to Iran on three separate flights, was previously prepared for the plant’s second year of operation.
“This consignment was shipped, taking into account all safety measures and legal procedures, and has been transported to its designated area in the nuclear reactor,” said Hamid Khadem-Qaemi, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), FNA reports.
While the US and its western allies continue their assertions that Iran’s intent is to enrich uranium for a weapons program, Tehran continues insisting the uranium enrichment program is designed to create electricity to meet the country’s growing demand, allowing its immense oil and gas reserves to be directed toward the rewarding export market.
The IAEA stated in February it had new information regarding “possible military dimensions” on Iran’s nuclear goals, FAN reported.
Iran’s uranium enrichment plant located at Natanz is significantly more important to the world community than Bushehr. and the country claims that facility is producing low-grade fuel for reactors still on the drawing boards.
Most experts in the nuclear industry consider Bushehr to be a non-factor in its ability to produce a nuclear arsenal, due to strict supervision by the International Atomic energy Agency (IAEA). Additionally, plutonium-laced spent fuel from the plant will be sent back to Russia, limiting the possibility of Iran developing a weapons program at Bushehr.
The Bushehr facility has a long history of delays due to political interruptions. Construction on the facility first began in the 1970’s, backed by a German partnership, but the Islamic Revolution in 1979 forced its abandonment. After numerous postponements, Russia took over control of the project in the mid-1990’s, thanks to a $1 billion arrangement with Tehran.
After the recent nuclear meltdown at Japan’s Daiichi facility near Fukushima, there are renewed concerns over the Bushehr plant by Iran’s Gulf neighbors. Three tectonic plates create a junction near where the plant is located, but Iran insists the plant is quake proof.
Negotiations with Iran over its nuclear ambitions have repeatedly stalled due to political pressures, but earlier this week Tehran announced it is ready to resume those talks with some of the world’s major players, including Germany, France, China, Russia, Britain, and the US.
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