Iran to ‘remove fuel’ from nuclear plant

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, February 26, 2011 10:40 EDT
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TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran said on Saturday it is removing the fuel from the reactor of a Russian-built nuclear power plant, a move seen as a big blow to its controversial nuclear programme.

The decision to remove the fuel from the reactor of the nuclear plant in the southern city of Bushehr comes just months before the facility — which has seen a roller-coaster ride since its construction began in the 1970s — was scheduled to generate electricity.

“Based on the recommendation of Russia, which is in charge of completing the Bushehr atomic power plant, the fuel inside the reactor core will be taken out for a while to conduct some experiments and technical work,” Iran’s envoy to the UN atomic watchdog, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told the ISNA news agency.

“After the experiments, it will again be installed in the core of the reactor.” He did not specify when the experiments would be completed.

Iran had started loading the fuel into the reactor in October after the “physical launch” of the plant by Moscow on August 21.

In January, Iran’s former atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi said the plant would be ready to generate electricity on April 9 after operations began in November.

The decision to remove the fuel rods, also supplied by Russia, is the latest setback in the more than three-decade old history of the plant, which was first launched by the US-backed shah using contractors from German company Siemens.

But it was shelved when the shah was ousted in the Islamic revolution of 1979 and it lay unfinished through the 1980s as Iran battled internal opposition and a devastating eight-year war with Iraq.

It was revived in the late 1980s after current supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei succeeded revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

In the early 1990s, Iran sought help for the project after being turned away by Siemens over nuclear proliferation concerns.

In 1994, Russia agreed to complete the plant and provide the fuel, with the supply deal committing Iran to returning the spent fuel.

A deal was finally signed in January 1995 after 18 months of negotiations and preliminary accords.

That was just the start of a spate of delays and setbacks, as the Russian contractor was repeatedly forced to postpone completion.

In 2007, Russian contractor Atomstroiexport even accused Iran of falling behind in its payments, further jeopardising the project’s completion.

But finally on August 21 last year, Russian and Iranian engineers declared the physical launch of the plant, a move undertaken despite Moscow hardening its stance against Tehran’s nuclear programme by voting for a new sanctions resolution at the UN Security Council.

The West, which suspects Iran’s nuclear programme is cover for a weapons drive — a charge vehemently denied by Tehran — does not see Bushehr as posing any “proliferation risk,” however.

The plant has faced hiccups even after its physical launch, with officials blaming the delays in generating electricity on a range of factors, including Bushehr’s “severe weather.”

But they deny it was hit by the malicious Stuxent computer worm which struck industrial computers in Iran, although they acknowledge that the personal computers of some personnel at Bushehr were infected with it.

In January, The New York Times reported that US and Israeli intelligence services collaborated to develop the Stuxnet virus to sabotage Iran’s nuclear programme and the Bushehr plant could have been one of the targets.

On Saturday, Nasser Rastkhah, head of Iran’s nuclear safety system, reiterated to state news agency IRNA that Stuxnet had “no effect on the controls of the Bushehr atomic plant.”

Bushehr is a pressurised water reactor with a capacity to produce 1,000 megawatts of power.

It was constructed by more than 2,000 Russian engineers and workers living in a purpose-built village near the site.

Iran, which has some of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves, says it wants to develop nuclear power so it can use those reserves judiciously.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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  • mick

    Imagine if Iran had unleashed a “Stuxnet virus” on Dimona in Israel or Indian Point Station in America .It would regarded as an “act of war” .
    America ,Israel and hypocrisy are the real “Axis of Evil” in the world.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OSYTHKLFNG5CIA7NYRB7E7KRA Spy

    Its questionable that the “Stuxnet virus” had anything to do with this. More likely, it’s the high quality of Russian reactors. Remember CHERNOBYL??

  • Anonymous

    Doubt it was Stuxnet alot of material on the coding of Stuxnet is available and it appears to target centrifuges linked to the enrichment process for Uranium not the heavy water reactor phase. Natanaz would have been the main target since that is where Iran enriches the uranium.

    Bushehr is just a conventional nuclear plant identical to hundreds of others the world over this why the article states “The West, which suspects Iran’s nuclear programme is cover for a weapons drive — a charge vehemently denied by Tehran — does not see Bushehr as posing any “proliferation risk,” however.”

    Also while on the topic of Stuxnet it is doubtful that the virus had much effect after all. Mondoweiss had a good article last week on all the recent information on Stuxnet.


    For one thing while it appears designed to disrupt uranium enrichment the IAEA has confirmed as one of its charts shows, enrichment has actually increased during the last 12 months. The IAEA report does mention that they observed several hundred centrifuges disconnected and inactive during a recent visit but all in all appears to be less than 900 centrifuges inactive (Natanaz has 8,000 centrifuges) so around 10% may have been infected.


    If my country was in danger from a powerful country with rifles which didn’t like our government and tended to invade smaller and weaker nations on any pretext and our only defense was bows and arrows, I’m sure we would be trying to develop ways to use gunpowder as fast as we could to protect us and would buy help from countries that also had rifles and would listen to advice and instructions on how to load them.

  • Anonymous

    ….And blow the world up to welcome the twelfth Imam.

  • Praxman

    You sure the whole STUXNET thing isn’t an elaborate hoax done to :

    a) scare the general public into accepting a ‘turned off’ internet
    b) provide plausible cover to protect ‘informants’ (probably Russians) on the inside that are actually damaging the plant

  • K7KTR

    Personally I thought this was bad news when I heard it. The wave of the future seems to be Nuclear Energy. In fact when you look at the Sub’s, Ships and Cities powered by it and how it sure beats burning Coal. Living in Montana next to MRL or BN Tracks when you see these Coal Trains going by that are a Mile long I think of the Pollution.
    When they Pulled their Rods I thought, This is what STOPPED Israel from Bombing them when they Inserted them. With the Rods IN then 72,000,000 Iranian People have less Chance of being Bombed. If you notice this story, Iran has let everyone know what was going on. Not hiding anything. One thing I fear, Is who-ever did this Virus, Were they hoping to shut the system down OR… Would they chance playing GOD with a CHINA MELTDOWN had not the Virus been caught?
    This is what worried me the Most. Would another Country allow a Reactor to Melt Down and release Radioactivity all over 72Million People. If that be the case whether it may have been Israel or US. Someone needs their Heads looked at. Remember Russia’s? They Aborted 200,000 Babies from that accident. People should read more about that, The Cancer Rate that went up in Japan during that time.
    I tell you People are SICK, I just saw an article that actually said a Nuclear War might HELP the Global Warming.