Iran inserts fuel into nuclear plant core
Tehran, October 26, 2010
Iran has started loading fuel into the core of its first nuclear power plant, bringing it a step closer to realising its stated goal of becoming a peaceful nuclear power, state-run Press TV reported on Tuesday.
"Iran has started injecting fuel into the core of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr which is the country's first nuclear reactor," the English-language television channel said on its website.
Amid great media fanfare, fuel rods were transported into the reactor building in August, but they were not inserted into its core.
The development comes as the United States and Europe seek to coax Tehran back into stalled talks about its nuclear enrichment activities which some countries fear is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.
Iran says the Russian-built 1,000-mw plant will start producing energy in early 2011 after decades of delays and that the launch shows its nuclear ambitions are peaceful and not aimed at making an atomic bomb.
Iran insists it needs to enrich uranium -- material which can also be used to make weapons if refined much further -- to fuel future power stations and a medical research reactor.
Scepticism about Iran's real aims led to a new round of sanctions from the UN Security Council in June and tighter measures from Washington and the European Union.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the "P5+1" powers -- UN Security Council permanent members Russia, the United States, China, France and Britain, plus Germany -- has invited Iran for talks in Vienna from November 15 to 17.
Iran has welcomed the offer of talks, but has not yet formally replied to the invitation. Officials have said they require clarification on what exactly the talks aim to achieve.
Tehran is showing no sign of backing down in the dispute, pressing ahead with enrichment activity despite the sanctions. Officials have said the reactor will begin generating energy early next year, a delay of several months. Iranian officials denied speculation the global spread of the "Stuxnet" computer virus affected the start-up, although it did infect some computers.
Experts say that firing up the $1-billion plant will not take Iran any closer to building a nuclear bomb since Russia will supply the enriched uranium for the reactor and take away spent fuel which could be used to make weapons-grade plutonium. - Reuters