Iran joins the world’s nuclear club

August 22, 2010 - 0:0

TEHRAN - The Bushehr nuclear power plant was launched on Saturday as engineers loaded the first of 163 fuel rods into the reactor under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The startup of the plant marked a milestone in Iran’s history as the country joined 29 nations that currently generate nuclear power.
Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Director Ali Akbar Salehi and Rosatom (Russian State Nuclear Energy Corporation) Chief Executive Officer Sergei Kiriyenko attended the opening ceremony of the plant.
The plant, which is located near the port of Bushehr on the coast of the Persian Gulf, will produce 1000 megawatts of electricity once all the fuel rods are loaded into the core of the reactor.
The start-up of the reactor makes Iran the first country in the Middle East with a nuclear energy facility. Iran plans to build enough plants to generate 20,000 megawatts of power over the next 20 years.
The launch of Iran’s first nuclear reactor will probably be a disappointment for the United States and Israel, which claim Iran is using its civilian nuclear energy program as a cover for a nuclear weapons program, a charge the Islamic Republic strongly denies.
The West has also been critical of Russia’s involvement in the construction of the Bushehr plant. But Russia says the plant was built for civilian purposes and cannot be used for a nuclear weapons program.
At the launching ceremony, Kiriyenko stated that the Bushehr nuclear plant was built under the watchful eye of the International Atomic Energy Agency and in full compliance with the provisions of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“Bushehr is a unique project globally,” he added. “It is important that Russia has shown that it stands by its obligations.”
Salehi called the day “historic” and thanked Russia for its efforts to construct the Bushehr plant.
The Iranian nation’s resistance, reinforced by their independence-seeking spirit and their strong support for Iran’s nuclear program, has led to the completion of the Bushehr reactor, he told reporters.
After the initial fuel loading of the plant, Salehi and Kiriyenko held a joint press conference to answer the questions of a host of Iranian and foreign reporters who came to visit the site for the inauguration ceremony.
The AEOI director extended his gratitude to the incumbent and former Iranian administrations for their full support of the national project. He also thanked the managers and technicians who successfully implemented the project.
In 1992, Iran and Russia signed a joint cooperation agreement on the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes that opened a new chapter in the bilateral relations of the two countries, Salehi said.
The Bushehr nuclear plant is a symbol of the resistance, determination, and perseverance of the Iranian nation, he stated.
He went on to say that Iran has full confidence that Russia will provide the nuclear fuel required by the Bushehr power plant.
However, he said Iran intends to produce a major portion of the nuclear fuel needed to power its reactors domestically.
Asked whether Iran would consider halting its program to enrich uranium to 20 percent, he said, “We simply moved toward 20 percent enrichment because the IAEA did not respond positively to our letter. They set many conditions for providing fuel for the Tehran reactor. Thus we will continue (to enrich uranium to 20 percent) to obtain fuel for the Tehran reactor based on our needs.”
Elsewhere in his remarks, Salehi said that the administration has pledged to take measures to relocate the residents of two towns, Khalileh and Langargah, which are in proximity to the Bushehr nuclear plant.
He also stated that the process of determining the locations for the construction of 10 more uranium enrichment plants is over, but he added, “Iran is in no hurry to build more reactors.”
The construction of one of these sites may start around the beginning of the next Iranian calendar year, he said. The next Iranian New Year occurs on March 21, 2011.
Kiriyenko stated that Russia will fulfill its commitment to provide nuclear fuel rods for the Bushehr plant.
He also said that Russia is prepared to supply the radioisotopes required by Iran for medical treatment.
Russia has always had a transparent position with respect to Iran’s nuclear program, he noted.
Kiriyenko said that Russia has been particularly meticulous with regard to the safety measures of the Bushehr plant, adding that the facility has been monitored by Iran, Russia, and the United Nations nuclear watchdog.
In addition, he said that access to nuclear technology meant for peaceful purposes is a legitimate right of all countries and there should be no doubt about the start-up and the nature of the Bushehr nuclear plant.
He stated that Russia will continue to offer its cooperation to Iran and any other country that seeks to have a civilian nuclear program.
On the sidelines of their joint press conference, Salehi and Kiriyenko signed three cooperation agreements in line with the inauguration of the Bushehr power plant.
The two countries agreed to cooperate to bring the plant to optimal capacity and to establish a joint company to oversee the proper exploitation of the Bushehr nuclear plant.
The Bushehr reactor may save Iran 11 million barrels of crude oil or 1.8 billion cubic meters of gas per year, the London-based World Nuclear Association said in a report.
The plant will also put Iran at least a decade ahead of more prosperous Middle Eastern neighbors such as the United Arab Emirates, which plans to build four nuclear plants by 2020.