Iran unloads nuclear fuel for atomic power plant

19 November 2012
By Daniel Smith
Mobile version
Share |
A model of the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant

A model of the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant

Iran unloaded nuclear fuel from its first atomic power plant last month, a United Nations report said on Friday. A few months after the Russian builder said the long-postponed reactor was operating at full capacity.

The nuclear fuel unloaded by the Bushehr plant stands as a symbol of what the Islamic Republic see as its “peaceful” nuclear ambitions, despite disputes from Western nations. Any new hitch is possible to be seen as an embarrassment for both Tehran and Moscow, whose experts help run it.

Moving fuel assemblies from the reactor core to a spent fuel pond mean that the plant was shut down. “It was certainly not foreseen, that’s for sure,” reported a diplomat familiar with the issue.

Motives of the unexpected move are not clear but speculation points to a problem in running the Russian-built, 1,000-megawatt reactor near the Gulf city of Bushehr.

On 6 and 7 November, "the agency conducted an inspection of BNPP (Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant) and verified that the fuel assemblies were in the spent fuel pond", the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a report on Iran's nuclear programme, giving no further detail on the matter.

In September 2011 Bushehr was plugged into Iran’s national grid, a move intended to end years of delays and perceptions that Moscow was using the project as a diplomatic lever to extract Iranian agreement on other issues.

As of August 2011 the Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom said it was fully operational.

Iran announced it had to remove fuel for testing earlier the previous year. Close sources claim this was due to concerns with metal particles from nearby 30-year-old equipment used in the construction of the reactor core had contaminated the fuel.

Iran's mission to the UN nuclear watchdog was not immediately available for comment. Russian builder NIAEP – part of Rosatom – was last month quoted as saying Bushehr would be formally "handed over for use" to Iran in March 2013, whereas earlier officials had said that would happen by the end of this year.

Last week, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, Iranian atomic energy chief, stated his country's experts would start operating the plant "after various experiments and tests" by mid-February. As a major oil producer, Iran says electricity generation is the main motive behind their nuclear work but its adversaries say Tehran's underlying goal is atomic weapons capability.

The Bushehr plant is not considered a major proliferation threat by nuclear inspectors, whose concern is focused on sites where Iran enriches nuclear fuel in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions demanding it stop.

Construction was underway by Germany’s Siemens before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, which toppled the US-backed shah, and it was taken over by Russian engineers in the 1990s.

Fearing it could help Tehran develop nuclear weapons, the US spent years urging Russia to abandon the project. Such concerns later waned after an agreement under which Russia will supply enriched uranium for the reactor and repatriate spent fuel that could be reprocessed into weapons grade plutonium.

Russia sees Iran as a counterweight to US clout in the Middle East but is a partner of the US and four other powers – China, Britain, France and Germany – in efforts to rein in Tehran's nuclear activities.

Iran continued to rapidly expand its uranium enrichment capacity in an underground bunker built deep inside a mountain to protect it against enemy air strikes. This stands in defiance of international demands to curb the programme.

Enriched uranium can be used to fuel power plants – Iran's stated purpose – or to provide the explosive core of a nuclear bomb, which the West and Israel fear is Tehran's ultimate aim.

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1605

"We visit Barcelona, one of the smartest cities in the world, to find out what makes it so special. What does it look like and what is the future?"

E&T jobs

  • Senior Development Engineer, Electronics

    Premium job

    Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation
    • Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire
    • Competitive

    We are an innovative, robust and fast growing business, whose main focus is to deliver continues improvement to existing products and offer new sol..

    • Recruiter: Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation

    Apply for this job

  • Smart Grid Research Engineer

    Premium job

    University of Strathclyde
    • Cumbernauld, Glasgow
    • Grade: 6/7* £26,537 - £37,768*

    Work as part of a growing dynamic team on a wide range of technical projects with particular emphasis on experimental validation and testing

    • Recruiter: University of Strathclyde

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Asset Specialist

    Affinity Water
    • Hatfield, Hertfordshire

    Responsible for updating and writing electrical engineering standards, approved codes of practice and safe systems of work

    • Recruiter: Affinity Water

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Electronics Engineer

    York Instruments
    • York, North Yorkshire

    Senior electronics engineer to work as part of a team developing an MEG imaging system; working with the engineering team and external contractors.

    • Recruiter: York Instruments

    Apply for this job

  • Manufacturing Engineer - Circuit Card Assembly

    • Lostock Junction
    • Competitive Salary & Benefits

    What’s the opportunity?   Manufacturing UK is an integral part of the Operations Directorate whose principal mission is to ensure that MBDA’s deliverable commitments are met...

    • Recruiter: MBDA

    Apply for this job

  • High Voltage Engineer

    Premium job

    Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment
    • Great Dunmow, Essex

    This High Voltage Engineer will provide design leadership for high voltage cable assemblies up to one megavolt.

    • Recruiter: Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment

    Apply for this job

  • Team Leader - Flank Arrays

    BAE Systems
    • Barrow-In-Furness, Cumbria, England
    • Negotiable

    Team Leader - Flank Arrays Would you like to work in a unique role within the construction of the Astute Class submarines? We currently have a vacancy for a Team Leader - Flank Arrays at our site in Barrow-in-Furness. As a Team Leader - Flank Arrays, you

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Electronics and Software Engineer

    Copley Scientific Ltd
    • Nottingham
    • circa £35,000 per annum + bonus

    Develop new test equipment for the pharmaceutical industry. Good opportunities to grow and develop. Successful family-owned and managed business.

    • Recruiter: Copley Scientific Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Intelligent Transport Systems Engineer - Highways Technology

    Premium job

    Mott MacDonald
    • Birmingham, West Midlands

    Our transport technology team in Birmingham is currently growing a highly skilled and customer-focused team to...

    • Recruiter: Mott MacDonald

    Apply for this job

  • Analogue Electronics Engineer

    Premium job

    Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF)
    • Uppsala (Stad) (SE)

    The Swedish Institute of Space Institute (IRF) in Uppsala search for an analogue electronics engineer.

    • Recruiter: Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF)

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶


Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T