Russia starts delivering nuclear fuel to Iran

Russia starts delivering nuclear fuel to Iran

Vinay Shukla / PTI

Moscow: Russia has delivered the first batch of nuclear fuel for Iran’s controversial Bushehr atomic plant, with Moscow saying Tehran had given guarantees of the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme.

The $1 billion Bushehr NPP in southern Iran, being constructed with Russia’s help, has faced frequent delays over payment disputes. Iran’s first atomic plant has also caused International tensions with the West accusing Tehran of trying to built nuclear weapons, which the latter denies.

Russia’s nuclear agency said on Monday, 17 December, the shipment of low-enriched uranium fuel started on Sunday and would continue through February 2008.

“Containers with fuel sealed by IAEA inspectors have been delivered to the (Bushehr) site and placed in a special storage facility subject to international safety monitoring," it said in a release.

Spent Russian fuel is to be re-exported for preprocessing and storage, according to the agreement between the two countries.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the start of nuclear fuel supplies means Iran has laid the foundations to restore trust in its nuclear programme.

“We believe that entirely new conditions have been created, allowing Iran to take steps to restore trust in the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme," the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said Iran had provided additional written guarantees that the fuel would be used solely for electricity generation.

“This includes the suspension of uranium enrichment activities, as Iran will not need its own enrichment facility in the mid-term," the foreign ministry was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.

The delivery of nuclear fuel comes in the wake of progress in Tehran’s negotiations with the UN atomic watchdog IAEA and following the US National Intelligence Estimate that it had stopped its nuclear weapons programme back in 2003.

Iran, a signatory of Non Proliferation Treaty, had from the very beginning blamed western pressure for months of project delays which Moscow had attributed to payment arrears.

Russian nuclear officials earlier said fuel for Bushehr would not exceed the uranium enrichment level achieved by the Iranians. The IAEA said Iran has enriched uranium to a level of 3.7% of U-235, insufficient for producing nuclear weapons, which would require a level of around 90%.