Russia delivers 30 tons of fuel for Iran’s first nuclear plant at Bushehr on the Gulf


Russia has delivered 30 tons of fuel for Iran’s first nuclear power plant in Bushehr, which sits on the Arabian Gulf.

“Thirty tons of nuclear fuel has been delivered to Bushehr plant from Russia” on May 4, 8, and 11, Hamid Qaemi, the spokesman for the Iranian atomic energy organization, told the Tehran-based Arabic-language Al Alam television on Wednesday.

He gave no additional information.

The United States, Israel and European nations are convinced that Iran plans to build atomic weapons at Bushehr, something that Iran has denied. It says that Bushehr will be used to produce power for civilian purposes, an assertion that has long been met with skepticism by Israel and the West.

Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which to which it subscribed in 2003. Israel, India and Pakistan—all of which are believed or proven to have nuclear weapons—have refused to sign the treaty, which currently has 189 signatories.

In 2008, Moscow delivered 82 tons of fuel enriched by 1.6 to 3.6 percent along with supplementary equipment for the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear plant, according to Agence-France Presse.

News of the delivery of a new batch of fuel comes a day after Russia’s nuclear export agency, Atomstroyexport, said it had successfully completed a vital pre-launch test at Bushehr.

The Russian statement confirms Iranian media reports that the plant had been reloaded with nuclear fuel and was being prepared for a start-up in July.

Atomstroyexport said last Sunday it had launched “a self-supporting chain reaction” in the “active zone” of the plant’s first reactor.

The test brought “the nuclear steam-generating plant to the minimal controlled power level,” the Russian agency said.

The plant’s connection to Iran's electricity grid was initially scheduled for the end of 2010 but this has been postponed several times due to technical problems.

Russian nuclear fuel rods had to be removed from Bushehr in February 2011 because of internal wear and tear that Russia blamed on the Iranian engineers' insistence on working with outdated parts.

The 1,000-megawatt power plan is also located in a seismically active area.

Reports from Iran claim the facility is safe and that it can withstand an earthquake of a high magnitude. But critics point out that Bushehr poses a threat to the Arab Gulf region because of its aging equipment and lack of regular checks.

Russia used German cooling pumps to include them in the finishing stage of the project but witnessed a failure.

Like Japan, an earthquake can disrupt Bushehr’s electrical supply, which would prevent the cooling system from working efficiently.

Despite the plant being dubbed as Russian-built, its construction started in the 1970s with the help of the German company Siemens, but the company left the site after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

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 1995.

While Russia needs to tap into the Iranian markets to sell its goods, some analysts believe that Russia supplying Iran with some nuclear know-how is to keep bilateral relations close and to keep an eye on the latest nuclear advances made by Iran.

Russia signed a deal with Iran to sell the Islamic republic S-300 missiles, but late 2010 it backed off from the deal. With a S-300 missile capability, Iran can easily strike Israel with nuclear warheads.

(Dina Al-Shibeeb, an editor at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: dina.ibrahim@mbc.net)