Iran received the final shipment of uranium fuel from Russia on Monday for its first nuclear plant, state media reported, a key step toward the launch of the reactor's operations expected later this year.
The 5-ton consignment of enriched uranium arrived at the light-water Bushehr nuclear power plant on Monday morning, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
"With the arrival of the final shipment, all 82 tons of initial fuel needed for the power plant together with peripheral equipment has been shipped from Russia to Iran," IRNA reported.
Irina Yesipova, a spokeswoman for Russia's state Atomstroiexport company in charge of building the Bushehr plant, confirmed the shipment.
Iran, which has denied US allegations it is pursuing nuclear weapons, received the first shipment of nuclear fuel from Russia on Dec. 17 following a monthslong dispute between the two countries, allegedly over delayed construction payments for the reactor.
Iran has said Bushehr, the country's first nuclear reactor, will begin operating in the summer of 2008, running at half its 1,000-megawatt capacity.
But Yesipova said a firm date for the plant's launch hadn't been set yet. "It will be necessary to conduct complex work related to preparations for the launch with security being the top priority," she said.
Tehran has heralded the shipments as a victory, saying they proved its nuclear program was peaceful, not a cover for weapons development as claimed by the US and some of its allies.
The U.S. initially opposed Russian participation in the building of the Bushehr reactor and supplying it with fuel, but reversed its position about a year ago to obtain Moscow's support for the first set of UN sanctions against Iran.
Washington was also influenced by Iran's agreement to return spent nuclear fuel from the reactor back to Russia to ensure it doesn't extract plutonium to make atomic bombs.
Russia began shipping nuclear fuel to Iran following a US intelligence report released last month that concluded Tehran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in late 2003 and had not resumed it since. Iran maintains it never had a weapons program.
It also came after the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iran had been truthful about its past uranium enrichment activities.
The United States and Russia have said the supply of nuclear fuel means Iran has no need to continue its own uranium enrichment program — a process that can provide fuel for a reactor or fissile material for a bomb.
Iran has insisted it will continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel for a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhovin.
Iranian officials have said they plan to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity through nuclear energy in the next two decades.