Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant using Russian-supplied uranium fuel. File Photo

Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant using Russian-supplied uranium fuel.

Iran Tells Russia It Wants To Use Domestic Nuclear Fuel For Power Plant

12/25/2021

Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization has told Russia that Iran hopes to replace Russian fuel for its Bushehr nuclear power plant with domestic uranium..

"We had talks with Rosatom and we hope that as part of our cooperation, based on the plans and contracts we will sign, we will be able to do this and start using Iranian fuel in the reactor in Bushehr", Mohammad Eslami was quoted Saturday by Russia's state-owned Sputnik as saying.

The United States had expressed reservations about Russia building the Bushehr nuclear power plant but finally relented in late 2000s, saying that as long as Russia controls the fuel it did not see the project as a proliferation risk.

It is not clear what the US reaction would be if Iran starts using domestic fuel.

Russia was also responsible to take away the spent fuel and it is not clear that if Iran supplies the uranium fuel it would still be willing to send the spent fuel to Russia.

Iran is not known to have built facilities that would be able to separate plutonium from spent reactor fuel. Moscow and Tehran have an agreement to send back the spent fuel from the Bushehr plant to Russia. Russia last supplied fuel for the reactor in April 2020.

Eslami’s statement comes amid sensitive nuclear negotiations in Vienna to restore Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, known as JCPOA, which was meant to limit Tehran’s nuclear program. Although the Bushehr plant had nothing to do with that agreement, Iran’s plan to replace Russian fuel with domestic uranium can inject a new element in Western calculations.

Rosatom, Russia's State Atomic Energy Corporation, carried out most of the construction of the first reactor of Bushehr and has provided the reactor's fuel under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since it began operating in 2011. The company is now constructing a second reactor at the site and has signed a contract to construct a third power unit.

Pointing out that the construction of the second and third power units of the Bushehr power plant is around 23 months behind schedule, Eslami said Iran is expecting Rosatom to speed up the project's implementation and make compensation for its delay.

Construction began in 2017 on the two new nuclear reactors, due for completion in 2024 and 2026, at Bushehr with a projected combined capacity of 2,100 MW. The work follows a 2014 agreement between Iran and Rosatom.

Eslami was also asked by Sputnik Friday whether Iran will continue to enrich uranium beyond 60 percent if the country does not return to the 2015 nuclear deal and sanctions are not lifted, to which he replied "no."

With electricity generation at around 50,000-56,000 MW in the past few years, rising no more than 2,000 MW a year, Iran has struggled to meet consumption that has been rising and is encouraged by subsidized prices.

Bushehr nuclear power plant was connected to Iran's national power grid in September 2011. During a visit on 2 October to Bushehr, in southern Iran, President Raisi (Raeesi) said the current 1,000-megawatt (MW) capacity of Iran’s sole nuclear power plant would be tripled with further development, and that the AEIO was committed to increasing production from nuclear power to 10,000 MW.

With an annual average of 300 sunny days in over two-thirds of the country Iran has great potential for solar energy, but renewables including hydro-power account for 7 percent of Iran’s energy generation compared to 90 percent from natural gas and dirty oil fuels.

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