After a decades-long delay, Iran inaugurated its first nuclear power plant on Monday in the southern city of Bushehr by linking it to the country’s electricity grid. “The launch of Iran’s first nuclear plant is a demonstration of self-belief and perseverance to defend sovereignty,” announced Fereydounn Abbasi, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization chief. The Bushehr plant is the only operational nuclear plant in the Middle East.
Six days prior to the plant’s ceremonial opening, Iran’s nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton stating that Tehran was ready to resume talks on its nuclear facilities and nonproliferation “as soon as you are ready.” But the letter also said that any “measures that would lead to the deprivation” of the rights of states, “including the noble nation of Iran, is unacceptable.”
The nuclear power facility at Bushehr
Western diplomats rightly dismissed that letter as part of an Iranian “charm offensive” set at derailing plans to once again refer Tehran to the UN Security Council for new sanctions. Indeed, Iran’s recent decision to move its uranium enrichment operations to a fortified underground bunker has sparked a stream of harsh criticism from the UN nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as from European powers and the U.S.
As of now, the new plant’s fuel is provided by Russia and its nuclear waste is to be returned there — proof to the U.S. that “Iran doesn’t need its own enrichment facilities because it can receive fuel from the international community, as it is in this case,” according to State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. And yet, Iran has no plans of halting its enrichment activities, essentially proving Western concerns that Iran is not only interested in powering its country’s lights.