A first for Iran: the nuclear plant in Bushehr
Iran’s first nuclear power plant has finally started adding electricity to the national grid, media reported Sunday. Here are some facts about the Bushehr power plant.
- The Bushehr plant, on the Gulf coast of southwest Iran, is associated with the city of the same name, but is located near Halileh about 12 kilometers south of Bushehr. This also is the site of Iran’s Nuclear Energy College.
- Construction of two pressurised 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 prior to the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
- With the fall of the Shah in the revolution, the project was halted. The site was damaged during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and equipment was looted.
- The project was revived with Russian help but construction ran into repeated delays blamed by Russia on problems with receiving payment from Iran.
- Bushehr will have an operating capacity of 1,000 megawatts. Iran, the world’s fifth largest oil exporter, has said it wants to build a network of nuclear plants with a capacity of 20,000 megawatts by 2020 to enable it to export more oil and gas.
- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced the start-up in March 2010, but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that would be “premature” without Iranian assurances on its uranium enrichment program, which the West fears is aimed at producing atomic weapons.
- Iran has received nuclear fuel for Bushehr from Russia and will be obliged by contract to return all spent fuel rods to Russia, an arrangement that eased U.S. concern Iran could reprocess the material into weapons-grade plutonium.
- Fuel rods were transported into the reactor building in August 2010 and officials said it would take two to three months for the plant to start producing power. The fuel was not loaded into the reactor until October and then it was removed due to fears metal particles from nearly 30-year old equipment used in construction of the reactor core had contaminated the fuel.
- Iran denied allegations that the global Stuxnet computer virus contributed to the delays.
- Switching on the Bushehr plant could still dismay some in the United States, Israel and Europe who are suspicious of Iran’s ultimate nuclear intentions.