Iran: Bushehr Nuclear Reactor Now Fully Loaded

Iran’s nuclear chief says the country’s first nuclear reactor is fully loaded and could be operational within months.

Ali Akbar Salehi told state-run television Saturday workers had finished loading fuel rods into the core of the Bushehr nuclear plant, and that it could start generating electricity by February.

Salehi said officials are just waiting for the water in the reactor to heat to the right temperature before moving ahead.

Iran first started loading fuel rods into the 1,000-megawatt, Russian-built reactor in August, but the process encountered several delays, pushing back its scheduled November start-up.

Western nations accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear technology in order to make nuclear weapons – a charge Tehran denies.
While Western officials do not see the Bushehr power plant as a threat, they worry any progress in Iran’s nuclear program could help Tehran get closer to becoming a nuclear-armed power.

The United Nations has already slapped Iran with four rounds of sanctions over its refusal to stop enriching uranium – a step that can produce weapons-grade nuclear material.

Earlier this week, Iran’s nuclear chief denied claims that technical problems set back Iran’s efforts to enrich uranium.

Salehi said Tuesday the country’s atomic program was not affected by the Stuxnet computer worm, stating Iran’s enemies “failed to achieve their goal.”

Salehi also said Iran will begin producing nuclear fuel for a research reactor next September. He called production of 20 percent enriched uranium a “firm response to the West.”

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