Iran To Join Nuclear Power Club As Russia Starts Reactor Under UN's Watch

Iran, under United Nations sanctions for its nuclear program, today will end a 36-year quest to join the club of atomic-powered nations when Russia’s Rosatom Corp. switches on a reactor along the Persian Gulf coast. The start-up of the 1,000-megawatt reactor near Bushehr, in southern Iran, will make Iran the first country in the Middle East with a nuclear-energy facility, freeing more of its fossil fuels for export. Iran also becomes only the second Muslim state after Pakistan to have nuclear power, with ambitions to build enough plants to generate 20,000 megawatts within 20 years. Bushehr will be a “thorn in the eye of ill-seekers,” Iranian Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who also heads the country’s Atomic Energy Organization, told the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency on Aug. 17. The U.S., while accepting that the Russian-fueled Bushehr reactor is for civilian use, has attacked President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s expansion of the nuclear program to include uranium enrichment. The UN in June passed a fourth round of sanctions against Iran for refusing to suspend enrichment, which can produce reactor fuel or bomb-grade material. Iran denies it plans to make weapons and says the enrichment is for peaceful purposes, such as fueling a medical-research reactor in Tehran. Today, state-owned Rosatom will begin the fueling process, under the supervision of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency. Rosatom Chief Executive Officer Sergei Kiriyenko will join Salehi in an inspection of the control room. The plant will account for less than 4 percent of Iran’s electricity. Spent Fuel Under Iran’s agreement with Moscow-based Rosatom, the company will continue to supply uranium for the plant and take away the spent fuel. Bushehr’s operations and fuel deliveries are monitored by the IAEA. As long as Iran’s work is controlled by the IAEA and all international norms are maintained, a reactor such as Bushehr is acceptable, Kiriyenko, a former Russian nuclear agency chief, said