As fueling of Iranian nuclear facility begins, Ahmadinejad warns that a strike on Iran would be answered with "harsh and painful" response; US: Plant does not pose proliferation risk.
By HERB KEINON, ASSOCIATED PRESS, JPOST.COM STA
With Iranian and Russian engineers loading fuel into Iran's first nuclear power plant at Bushehr on Saturday, Israel expressed astonishment at how a country that completely thumbs its nose at the world regarding its nuclear program will be able to enjoy the benefits of nuclear energy."It is totally unacceptable that a country that blatantly violates decisions of the United Nations Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency, and ignores its commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty charter, will enjoy the fruits of using nuclear energy," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levy said.RELATED:Editorial:Iran's Bushehr success'Israel has days to strike Bushehr' "The international community," he added, "must increase pressure on Iran, so that it will obey international decisions, halt its activity in the field of enrichment and construction of heavy water reactors, and will fully reply to the accusations raised against it."The Foreign Ministry was pointedly making no reference to the Russian involvement in the reactor, an apparent effort not to say anything that could in any way complicate Israel's relations with Moscow.The US State Department said Saturday that they do not consider Iran's Bushehr nuclear power facility a proliferation risk, AFP reported. Advertisement“We recognize that the Bushehr reactor is designed to provide civilian nuclear power and do not view it as a proliferation risk,” State Department spokesman Darby Holladay told AFP on Saturday.Holladay added that if Iran's nuclear activities are meant for peaceful purposes, as Teheran has claimed, than the new Bushehr fuel reactor would eliminate Iran's need to continue enriching uranium.As the opening of the Bushehr plant took place on Saturday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Qatari newspaper Al-Shark that if the Islamic Republic's nuclear facilities were attacked, the response from Teheran would be "worldwide" in its scope."Our possibilities would be limitless and would encompass the whole world," said Ahmadinejad.Ahmadinejad discussed Israel, stating that the Jewish state would like to attack Iran but understands that the Islamic Republic is a "fortress that cannot be destroyed" and that the Iranian response to such an attack would be "harsh and painful.""I don't believe their American masters would let them attack," Ahamadinejad added on Israel.The weeklong operation to load uranium fuel into the reactor at the Bushehr power plant is the first step in starting up a facility the US once hoped to prevent because of fears over Teheran's nuclear ambitions.Opening of facility hailed as triumph over sanctions"Despite all pressure, sanctions and hardships imposed by Western nations, we are now witnessing the startup of the largest symbol of Iran's peaceful nuclear activities," Iranian Vice President and nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi told reporters inside the plant.Russia, which helped finish building the plant, has pledged to safeguard the site and prevent spent nuclear fuel from being shifted to a possible weapons program. After years of delaying its completion, Moscow says it believes the Bushehr project is essential for persuading Iran to cooperate with international efforts to ensure Iran does not develop the bomb.The United States, while no longer formally objecting to the plant, disagrees and says Iran should not be rewarded while it continues to defy UN demands to halt enrichment of uranium, a process used to produce fuel for power plants but which can also be used in weapons production.On Saturday, a first truckload of fuel was taken from a storage site to a fuel "pool" inside the reactor building. Over the next 10 days, 163 fuel assemblies — equal to 80 tons of uranium fuel — will be moved inside the building and then into the reactor core.Workers in white lab coats and helmets led reporters on a tour of the cavernous facility.It will be another two months before the 1,000-megawatt light-water reactor is pumping electricity to Iranian cities.Iran denies an intention to develop nuclear weapons, saying it only wants to generate power with a network of nuclear plants it plans to build.Russians to retrieve spent fuel which can be used to make nuclear weapons The Bushehr plant is not considered a proliferation risk because the terms of the deal commit the Iranians to allowing the Russians to retrieve all used reactor fuel for reprocessing. Spent fuel contains plutonium, which can be used to make atomic weapons. Additionally, Iran has said that International Atomic Energy Agency experts will be able to verify that none of the fresh fuel or waste is diverted.Of greater concern to the West, however, are Iran's stated plans to build 10 new uranium enrichment sites inside protected mountain strongholds. Iran said recently it will begin construction on the first one in March in defiance of the UN sanctions.Nationwide celebrations were planned for Saturday's fuel loading at Bushehr."I thank the Russian government and nation, which cooperated with the great Iranian nation and registered their name in Islamic Iran's golden history," Salehi said. "Today is a historic day and will be remembered in history."He spoke at a news conference inside the plant with the head of Russia's state-run nuclear corporation, Sergei Kiriyenko, who said Russia was always committed to the project."The countdown to the Bushehr nuclear power plant has started," Kiriyenko said. "Congratulations."
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