Bush backs nuclear fuel supply to Iran

As Russia delivers 1st shipment, US president says this shows Teheran has no need for enrichment.

bushehr reactor 248.88 (photo credit: )
bushehr reactor 248.88
(photo credit: )
US President George W. Bush said on Monday he supported Russian shipments of nuclear fuel to Iran for civilian power, saying they proved that Teheran has no need to enrich uranium. "If the Russians are willing to do that, which I support, then the Iranians do not need to learn how to enrich. If the Iranians accept that uranium for a civilian nuclear power plant, then there's no need for them to learn how to enrich," Bush said Iran received the first shipment of nuclear fuel from Russia on Monday for its Bushehr reactor, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported. Russia has been assisting the Iranians in the construction of the nuclear power plant. The 2005 agreement under which Russia agreed to supply nuclear fuel for Bushehr included a clause that requires Iran to return the spent fuel to prevent any possibility Teheran would extract plutonium from it to make atomic bombs. "All fuel that will be delivered will be under the control and guarantees of the International Atomic Energy Agency for the whole time it stays on Iranian territory," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday. "Moreover, the Iranian side gave additional written guarantees that the fuel will be used only for the Bushehr nuclear power plant." Iran contends the reactor operation in the southern Iranian town of Bushehr is strictly for civilian purposes, but some critics suspect Teheran intends to use the plant as part of an alleged effort to develop nuclear weapons. Construction at Bushehr had been frequently delayed. Officials said the delays were due to payment disputes, but many observers suggested Russia was also unhappy with Iran's obstinate resistance to international pressure to make its nuclear program more open and to assure the international community that it was not developing nuclear arms. Russia announced last week that its construction disputes with Iran had been resolved and said fuel deliveries would begin about a half year before Bushehr was expected to go into service. An Iranian official said the Bushehr plant was 95 percent complete and would begin operations "next year." He indicated the reactor needed 80 tons of nuclear fuel during the initial phase of operation, but did not provide further details. Bush reiterated his belief that Iran was a danger as long as it continued to enrich uranium, and pointed to the recent US National Intelligence Estimate which determined that Iran had been running a covert nuclear weapons program until 2003. "If somebody had a weapons program, what's to say they couldn't start it up tomorrow? Since they tried to hide their program before, how would we know?" he said. Bush said that Iran was heading down a path of isolation, adding that a new round of UN resolutions was approaching. "If they [suspend their enrichment programs], there is a way forward for them that is different from the path they're headed down now," he stated.