Iran: Shipment of Russian nuclear fuel strengthens strategic ties

Iran received its first nuclear fuel from Russia after a long delay on Monday, paving the way for the startup of its 1000 megawatt Bushehr light-water reactor in 2008.

Bushehr 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Bushehr 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The first shipment of nuclear fuel for Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant by Russia will strengthen strategic ties between Teheran and Moscow, a top nuclear official said Wednesday. Iran received its first nuclear fuel from Russia after a long delay on Monday, paving the way for the startup of its 1000 megawatt Bushehr light water reactor in 2008. "With nuclear fuel shipped to Bushehr, we are going to see a new approach in deepening strategic relations with Russia in all fields in the future," Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran told the official IRNA news agency. Both the US and Russia now say that with the shipment, the Iranians would no longer have any reason to produce enriched uranium that could be used to build a nuclear weapon. But Iran says it would continue its enrichment activities at a separate facility, in the central city of Natanz, to provide fuel for another light-water 360-megawatt nuclear reactor being built in the southwestern town of Darkhovin. Iran announced Monday it had started construction on the reactor using on local technology. Saeedi said shipment of nuclear fuel was made possible after a report last month by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, gave Iran a clean bill of health on its nuclear program, saying Iran had been truthful about its past uranium enrichment activities. "Russia shipped that fuel on the basis of a contract with Iran ... and (after) it obtained confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran's past and present nuclear activities. IAEA's positive report also influenced the issue of fuel shipment," IRNA quoted Saeedi as saying. According to Saeedi, the date for shipment of nuclear fuel to Iran was finalized during a landmark visit to Iran by Russian President Vladimir Putin in October. Last month, Iran said it has reached a milestone in its uranium enrichment program, saying the country now has 3,000 uranium-enriching centrifuges fully operating at Natanz. The IAEA confirmed the Iranian announcement. The number 3,000 is the commonly accepted figure for a nuclear enrichment program that is past the experimental stage and can be used as a platform for a full industrial-scale program. Uranium enriched to low level is used to produce nuclear fuel but further enrichment makes it suitable for building weapons. Iran says it plans to expand its enrichment program to up to 54,000 centrifuges at Natanz and is fully within its rights to pursue the enrichment to produce fuel under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.