(photo credit: Stringer Iran / Reuters)
TEHRAN - Iran is conducting final tests at its first nuclear power plant and it is expected to start generating electricity in the next two months, Iranian media said on Monday.
RELATED:IAEA says Iran's Bushehr delays were caused by pumpAfter Stuxnet, Iran says it's discovered 2nd attack
Meant to be the first of a network of nuclear power stations Iran says it is planning, the Russian-built Bushehr complex has missed deadline after deadline to come on stream, most recently fuel had to be removed and checked for technical problems.
Fars news agency said Bushehr would start injecting power into the national electricity grid in the next two months.
"Right now, after the fuel rods that were unloaded from the reactor core
were washed, they are being loaded again and final tests are under
way," Gholamali Miglinejad, a member of a parliamentary committee
monitoring Bushehr, was quoted as saying by the student news agency
Iran began loading fuel into Bushehr last August in front of foreign and
domestic media, touting it as a symbol of resistance to international
sanctions imposed by countries that suspect the Islamic state is seeking
nuclear weapons, something it denies.
At that time, Iranian officials said it would take two to three months
for Bushehr to start producing power, and that it would generate 1,000
megawatts, about 2.5 percent of Iran's electricity usage. Russia is
providing the fuel for Bushehr.
But the start-up of the plant has been hit by several delays since then,
with some analysts blaming the mysterious Stuxnet computer virus.
Tehran said Stuxnet had afflicted staff computers at Bushehr but not
affected major systems there.
Security experts say the computer worm may have been a state-sponsored
attack on Iran's nuclear programme and have originated in the United
States or Israel. Neither country has mentioned any link with Stuxnet.
Diplomats and security sources say Western governments and Israel view sabotage as one way of slowing Iran's nuclear work.Nuclear sabotage in Iran?
Some analysts believe Iran may be suffering wider sabotage aimed at
slowing its nuclear advances, pointing to a series of unexplained
technical glitches that have cut the number of working centrifuges at
its Natanz uranium enrichment plant.
Natanz is at the core of Western concerns about Iran's nuclear
intentions since the country, without any nuclear power plants other
than Bushehr, has no current civilian use for enriched uranium. Western
leaders believe Iran, one of the world's biggest oil and gas producers,
secretly aims to refine uranium to the high degree suitable for atom
Earlier this month, an Iranian official said his country had been hit by
a new malware called "Stars". But foreign experts have voiced doubt
that this represented a second cyber attack.
The Bushehr plant was begun by German electronics giant Siemens in the
1970s but the project was halted by Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Russia later completed the plant and will supply its fuel.
To ease concerns abroad that Iran might reprocess spent fuel rods from
Bushehr into bomb-grade plutonium, Russia will repatriate the used fuel.
The plant will also be regularly monitored by inspectors of the U.N.
nuclear watchdog agency.
Western officials have urged Iran to join the 1996 Convention on Nuclear
Safety, saying the Islamic state would be the only country operating a
nuclear reactor which is not part of the international pact once Bushehr
The convention, with 72 signatory states at present, was designed to
boost global nuclear safety, an issue that has gained more significance
in light of Japan's Fukushima nuclear crisis, through a system of peer
review and mutual oversight.
"The plant's location on the coast makes the safety of Iran's nuclear
programme a regional security concern," the International Institute for
Strategic Studies, a think-tank, said in a report last month.
It noted that Bushehr, like Fukushima, is in an earthquake zone. But
Iran does not need to fear a tsunami of the size that knocked out the
electricity and back-up cooling systems at Fukushima, as Bushehr is
located by the Gulf and not an ocean.