Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

First Shipment of Nuclear Fuel Goes to Iran

Key Facts About Bushehr
• The Bushehr nuclear facility is associated with the city of the same name but is actually located near Halileh, about 12 kilometers south of Bushehr's city limits. The site is also the location of Iran's Nuclear Energy College. • Construction of two pressurized water nuclear reactors began in 1974 with the help of German contractor Siemens and French scientists. The Bushehr I reactor was 85 percent complete and the Bushehr II reactor was partially complete before the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
• With the revolution, the project was halted. The site was then damaged and equipment looted during the Iran-Iraq war from 1980 to 1988. • The project was later revived with Russian help. The value of the Russian contract up to March 2006 was just under $1 billion.
• Bushehr will have an operating capacity of 1,000 megawatts. Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil producer, has said it wants to build a network of nuclear power plants with a capacity of 20,000 megawatts by 2020 to enable it to export more of its oil and gas. Iran and Russia are in talks over the construction of a second reactor at Bushehr.• Moscow announced in 2006 that nuclear fuel would be delivered to Bushehr in March, that the reactor would start up in September, and that electricity generated from it would be sent to the power grid in November.
• But in February, Moscow said it would put off construction work at Bushehr indefinitely because Tehran was behind on payments.• Atomstroiexport, the Russian subcontractor helping to build the plant, announced in July that Moscow had no chance of finishing Bushehr before late 2008. It said last week that the payment problems had been resolved.
Source: Reuters

Russia has delivered the first shipment of nuclear fuel to Iran's Bushehr atomic power station, a step both Moscow and Washington said should convince Tehran to shut down its disputed uranium enrichment program.

But a senior Iranian official said his country would under no circumstances halt its efforts to enrich uranium -- fuel it says it needs for other power plants but that foreign powers fear could be used in a nuclear bomb.

Western nations led by the United States had urged Russia not to deliver fuel to Bushehr, a plant in southern Iran that Russian engineers are building under a $1 billion contract.

In a change of tactics apparently the result of consultations between Moscow and Washington, the White House signaled that the arrival of the fuel could help international efforts to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"If the Russians are willing to do that, which I support, then the Iranians do not need to learn how to enrich," U.S. President George W. Bush said. "If the Iranians accept that uranium for a civilian nuclear power plant, then there's no need for them to learn how to enrich."

Russia had for months delayed delivering fuel to Bushehr, Iran's first nuclear power station, citing payment problems.

Analysts say the true reasons were disquiet in Moscow about the radical style of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the sensitivity of shipping uranium to a country under international sanctions over its nuclear program.

In a statement Monday, the Foreign Ministry said the project was back on track: "On Dec. 16 the delivery of fuel began from Russia to ... Bushehr."

Russian officials said the final shipment of fuel would arrive in February next year, allowing the plant to start operating six months later.

Iran confirmed that the first batch of about 80 tons of uranium fuel rods had been delivered.

But a senior Iranian official said the arrival of fuel would not change the enrichment program. "There is no talk of halting enrichment. Nothing is related to freezing enrichment," the official said in an interview.

Russia says Bushehr is being built under supervision of the United Nation's nuclear watchdog, ruling out any military use for the fuel or technology. It said it had been given new guarantees on this before sending the fuel.

But the project has for years caused friction between Moscow and Western powers pressing for restrictions on economic cooperation with Iran -- especially in a sector as sensitive as nuclear power.

In its statement, the Foreign Ministry echoed Washington, saying the delivery of fuel to Bushehr made Iran's own enrichment program redundant.

"We believe that qualitatively new conditions have been created which will allow Iran to take the steps which are demanded of it ... for the restoration of trust in the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program," it said.

The UN Security Council has imposed two rounds of sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt enrichment.

Iran's greater openness with UN inspectors this year made it diplomatically easier for Moscow to deliver the fuel, said Vladimir Orlov, a security analyst with the PIR Center.