Russia will load fuel into Iran’s first nuclear power plant, the Bushehr reactor, on August 21, beginning a process that will last approximately one month and end with the reactor sending electricity to Iranian cities, Russian and Iranian officials announced today. Russia has decided to move forward despite U.S. pleas to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear energy until Tehran proves it is not pursuing nuclear weapons.
After Russia supported a fourth round of UN sanctions against Iran in June, many analysts cited an ‘unravelling’ of relations between the two allies. But this has not proven to be the case: although Russia eventually signed on to sanctions against Iran, they were a watered-down version that are proving to be all bark and no bite. Indeed, Moscow has earned billions helping Iran bypass U.S. and EU sanctions, and has shown no interest in altering its money-making machine.
The reactor building of Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant is seen just outside the port city of Bushehr.
While the uranium fuel used by the Bushehr plant is enriched to a level too low to be used in a nuclear weapon, grave concerns still remain: The process generates plutonium that could be used in an atomic weapon. And while Russia insists that the plutonium will be returned, Iran can renounce the return agreement with Russia if it chooses to do so. Indeed, if it did, the Bushehr reactor could produce a quarter ton of plutonium per year – enough for at least 30 atomic bombs, according to analysts.
As Sergei Novikov, a spokesman for Russia’s state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, said, “This will be an irreversible step. At that moment, the Bushehr nuclear power plant will be certified as a nuclear energy installation.”