Iranian Reactor 311 reuters.
(photo credit: reuters)
TEHRAN - Iran has
not yet removed fuel from its Bushehr nuclear power plant, its foreign
ministry spokesman said on Tuesday, signalling a further possible delay
to the Russian-built plant's operation date.
Iran's ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog had said on Feb. 26 that Tehran was having to remove fuel from the reactor of its only nuclear power station, the latest glitch to hit Bushehr in Iran's decades-long attempts to bring it on line.
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But foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told Reuters: "The
nuclear fuel has not been unloaded at the Bushehr power plant and this
plant is continuing its routine activities."
He added: "We hope that Russia can meet the schedule ... and have the Bushehr plant join Iran's national grid on time."
It was not clear when the removal of the fuel might begin.
Amid confusion over the status of the plant, Iranian officials have said
the fuel was being unloaded for tests on the advice of Russian
engineers, and that it was being removed for safety reasons.
Russia's state-run nuclear agency said on Monday that the problem was caused by damage to internal elements in a cooling pump.
A senior Iranian official said in February that suggestions should be
investigated that the Stuxnet computer worm, believed to have been an
attempt by Iran's enemies to sabotage the nuclear program, had caused
harm to the 1,000 megawatt Bushehr reactor.
Russia's NATO ambassador has said the computer virus could have
triggered a nuclear disaster on the scale of the 1986 nuclear accident
at Chernobyl in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union.
Bushehr was started by Germany's Siemens in the 1970s, before Iran's
Islamic revolution, and has been dogged by delays. Fuel was loaded into
the reactor four months ago but a January deadline for it to start
producing electricity was missed.
Further delays could be an embarrassment not only to Iranian politicians
who have made Bushehr the showpiece of what they insist are Tehran's
peaceful nuclear ambitions, but also for Russia, which would like to
export more of its nuclear know-how to emerging economies.
Many analysts believe Stuxnet was a cyber attack by the United States
and Israel aimed at disabling Iran's nuclear equipment and slowing down a
program they suspect is aimed at making nuclear weapons, something
Iranian officials have confirmed Stuxnet hit staff computers at Bushehr but said it did not affect major systems.