Tehran: Iran on Saturday said it is removing
the fuel from the reactor of a Russian-built nuclear power
plant, a move seen as a big blow to its controversial nuclear
The decision to remove the fuel from the reactor of
the nuclear plant in the southern city of Bushehr comes just
months before the facility -- which has seen a roller-coaster
ride since its construction began in the 1970s -- was
scheduled to generate electricity.
"Based on the recommendation of Russia, which is in
charge of completing the Bushehr atomic power plant, the fuel
inside the reactor core will be taken out for a while to
conduct some experiments and technical work," Iran`s envoy to
the UN atomic watchdog, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told the ISNA
"After the experiments, it will again be installed in
the core of the reactor." He did not specify when the
experiments would be completed.
Iran had started loading the fuel into the reactor in
October after the "physical launch" of the plant by Moscow on
In January, Iran`s former atomic chief Ali Akbar
Salehi said the plant would be ready to generate electricity
on April 9 after operations began in November.
The decision to remove the fuel rods, also supplied by
Russia, is the latest setback in the more than three-decade
old history of the plant, which was first launched by the
US-backed shah using contractors from German company Siemens.
But it was shelved when the shah was ousted in the
Islamic revolution of 1979 and it lay unfinished through the
1980s as Iran battled internal opposition and a devastating
eight-year war with Iraq.
It was revived in the late 1980s after current supreme
leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei succeeded revolutionary leader
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
In the early 1990s, Iran sought help for the project
after being turned away by Siemens over nuclear proliferation
In 1994, Russia agreed to complete the plant and
provide the fuel, with the supply deal committing Iran to
returning the spent fuel. A deal was finally signed in January
1995 after 18 months of negotiations and preliminary accords.