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Aug 15, 2010

Irreversible step

TEHRAN (BNO NEWS) – Russia will start loading fuel into the reactor of an Iranian Bushehr nuclear power station next week, which marks the first major steps of progress after years of delay and controversy, the Guardian reported on Friday.
Russian and Iranian nuclear experts will begin loading uranium-packed fuel rods into the reactor on August 21, an operation that will take at least three weeks to complete. This will be a significant step towards an operational reactor, though, even after the fuel loading process, the reactor will not be completely functional.
“This will be an irreversible step,” said Sergei Novikov, a spokesperson for Russia’s state nuclear corporation said. “At that moment, the Bushehr nuclear power plant will be certified as a nuclear energy installation.”
Novikov will attend the ceremony in Iran next week to celebrate the milestone, in addition to Iran’s vice-president, Ali Akbar Salehi, who also is the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Russia’s decision to go through with the fueling process, saying it was a premature decision, and questioned the motives behind the reactor, in line with Western suspicions. This comes after a fourth set of international sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, including tough financial and arms embargos, in addition to an asset freeze on three dozen companies connected with Iran and travel freezes on a number of individuals.
American reservations about the nuclear plant doesn’t make it illegal, however, as nuclear experts and officials from the international community say that Bushehr does not contain sensitive technology that could be used to create nuclear weapons. This indicates why the plant doesn’t figure in to any UN resolutions against Iran, and that in addition to the fact that Bushehr does not have any link to Iran’s secretive enrichment program makes it legal on the international level.
Moscow is quick to point out that the international nuclear watchdog organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has closely supervised Bushehr and has found no reason to suspect anything malicious of it. In fact, Iran has pledged to send all fuel to Russia for reprocessing, ruling out the possibility that it could be used by Iran to make nuclear weapons.
Delays have caused the billion project significant setbacks, with diplomats indicating that Moscow has used it as leverage during any negotiations with Iran, forcing the country to deal with the long timescale as it has no other nuclear partners. Construction of the plant began in 1975 by a number of German companies, but after the 1979 Iranian revolution that shifted the balance of power away from the Western-friendly Shah, they pulled out due to U.S. embargoes. Russia stepped in and agreed to help build the reactor, over fifteen years ago.

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