Iran to `remove fuel` from Bushehr nuclear plant
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Last Updated: Saturday, February 26, 2011, 22:14
  
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 programme.

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 news agency.

"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 August 21.

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 concerns.

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.

Bureau report


First Published: Saturday, February 26, 2011, 22:14


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