Iran test runs 1st nuclear power plant
Pilot operation of Russian-built nuclear reactor in Bushehr carried out using virtual fuel rods in presence of Iranian, Russian atomic energy heads. Further tests using real low-grade uranium rods expected towards end of year, while date of opening of reactor to be announced at press conference Wednesday evening
Iran began a test run on its nuclear power plant in Bushehr on Wednesday. According to Iranian reports, the pilot operation was carried out using virtual fuel rods and not real ones.
The reactor's technical head Mohsen Shirazi told the Fars news agency that if this experiment is successful, tests will move on to the coming stages.
According to the report, the experiment is meant to test the various technical systems installed in the reactor. Virtual fuel has been loaded into the plant, and the material consists of lead that is meant to imitate enriched uranium needed to run the plant.
Experts believe, in the event that Wednesday's pilot is successful, that the next experiment will be carried out with real fuel rods by the end of the year.
Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Gholamreza Aghazadeh and Russian Rosatom agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko arrived at Bushehr Wednesday morning and inspected the process under heavy media coverage by local and foreign reporters.
The two are scheduled to hold a press conference Wednesday evening, in which they will detail the experimental stages and give the date set for the start of the reactor's full operation, after many years of delays.
Many delaysThe construction of the Bushehr reactor, aided by Russia, has suffered many delays over the last decade for a number of reasons.
Work began in 1975 by German companies, but after the American embargo on supplying advanced technology to Iran, the German companies abandoned the project.
Russia stepped in, and in February 1998 signed a contract with Iran to complete works on the reactor. According to the original plans, construction was supposed to be complete by the end of 2006.
However, this deadline was pushed back a number of times, and the Russians claimed this was due to financial disputes with Iran.
The US and its allies accuse Iran of using its nuclear program as a cover for weapons development. Iran has denied the claim, saying its uranium enrichment program is aimed at generating electricity.
The UN Security Council has passed three sets of sanctions against Iran over its uranium enrichment program, which can be used to produce both nuclear fuel and the material for weapons.
The Bushehr plant will use enriched uranium imported from Russia, rather than domestically produced fuel. Fuel deliveries began in 2007.
Tehran also plans to build a 360-megawatt nuclear power plant in Darkhovin, in the southwestern Khuzestan province that would use locally produced enriched uranium.
The Associated Press contributed to this report