Fueling the Reactor
On 23 December 2002 Russian Nuclear Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev said that Novosibirsk enterprises of the Russia Nuclear Energy Ministry had manufactured 180 fuel rods for the first reactor unit of the nuclear power pant built in Bushehr. He added that the "fuel rods will stay at the plant until the signing of an addendum to the acting agreement and equipping a storage facility for these elements in Iran by means of physical safeguarding at a level not lower than the standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency." Iran had begun work "to prepare a room for fuel storage and its equipment by means of physical safeguarding." The total weight of the irradiated fuel rods for the first loading of the Bushehr reactor was 90 tons. Russia would deliver them to Iran by four flights of transport planes.
Iran initially announced that it would receive its first shipment of 90 tons of enriched uranium from Russia in May 2003. However, on 12 June 2003 Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov stated that Russia would deliver nuclear fuel for the nuclear power station in Iran only after Tehran signed a memorandum binding it to return spent fuel to Russia. "As for the nuclear plant in Bushehr that is fully controlled by the IAEA, Russian fuel will be delivered there only in case Iran signs a memorandum obliging it to export the spent nuclear fuel back to Russia... We want Iran to observe all understandings with the IAEA. Iran itself should be interested in all programs being transparent and controllable so that there would be no ambiguity or variety of interpretation on the matter," Ivanov said. Russian statements conflicted as to whether the shipment of the fuel would be conditional on Iran signing the Additional Verfication Protocol, which would give IAEA inspectors access to non-declared facilities.
On 13 October 2003 a Russian official said there would be a delay of one year in the completion of the Bushehr nuclear power reactor. "Right now our specialists are drawing up a detailed plan for the plant and the start-up is set for 2005" as opposed to 2004, Nikolai Shingaryev, a senior spokesman for the atomic energy ministry, told AFP by telephone. "The reasons are purely technical, not political," he said. "There is a huge amount of equipment that is needed. Equipment [that we thought] would work is not going to work," he said.
In mid-November 2003 Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev said it could be several months more before Moscow and Tehran signed the deal on spent fuel. The signing had been postponed repeatedly since the beginning of that year. The agreement was important because it would clear the way for Moscow to complete construction of Iran's first nuclear power reactor at Bushehr on the Persian Gulf. Rumyantsev said there was no rush to sign the agreement because Russian fuel shipments to Bushehr were not scheduled to start until early next year. Iranian officials, he said, were too busy opening their nuclear program to closer inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna to finalize the agreement now. Under US pressure, Russia had agreed not deliver any fuel to the Bushehr power plant until Iran signed the agreement, one of whose provisions required Iran agree to return all of the reactor's spent fuel back to Russia for disposal.
On 13 February 2004 a Russian Energy Ministry official said that Iran and Russia might sign the protocol on exporting Russian nuclear fuel to Iran`s Bushehr Nuclear Plant and return of the use fuel to Russia within the following two weeks. The official said "The controversial protocol, that would pave the way for making functional Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Plant, and Russia's access to the major part of its money for completing the said plant, would be signed very soon, and no later than a fortnight from now." He emphasized, "When that protocol would be signed by the two countries' concerned officials, there would be practically no more obstacles on the way for making operational the Bushehr Nuclear Plant."
Russia withheld fuel for the reactor because of international concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions. Iran and Russia would sign a deal in the summer of 2004 on the return of spent nuclear fuel Russia would provide for the Bushehr plant. The deal was intended to prevent the extraction of plutonium from spent fuel and its possible use in nuclear warheads. Russian officials had stated in the past that they would not ship fuel to the plant without an accord on the repatriation of spent fuel. US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton had urged Russia not to supply nuclear fuel for the Bushehr reactor until Tehran addressed the full range of concerns about Iran's nuclear-weapons efforts.
On 22 August 2004 the head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Asadollah Sabouri, said Bushehr would become operational in October 2006, a year behind schedule. The contract for the return of the spent fuel, had been finalized, and differences existed over the costs, the official said. According to Sabouri, the two countries had set the deadline for Russia's delivery of nuclear fuel for the power plant to Iran at the end of 2005.
On 11 December 2004 Speaker of the Russian Federation Council Sergei Mironov stated that the first unit of the Bushehr nuclear power plant would be put into commission in 2006. He made the remarks during an official visit to Iran. "Moscow has a principled position on Russian-Iranian nuclear energy cooperation. Iran as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes," the speaker stressed.
On 27 February 2005, and after a one-day delay, Iran and Russia finally signed an agreement regarding providing the needed nuclear fuel for the Bushehr facility. Under the terms of the aggreement, Russia would provide nuclear fuel to Iran, who would in turn return the spent fuel back to Russia.
Russian Rosenergoatom Atomic Energy Concern's Novovoronezh center, as of early March 2005, had provided training for 650 specialists who were to staff the Bushehr nuclear power plant. An additional 700 Iranian engineers were expected to be trained before the end of 2005.
On 22 November 2005 a senior Russian official said that Moscow would not ship nuclear fuel to the Bushehr plant it was building for Iran before the facility's scheduled completion by mid-2006.
The light water reactor at Bushehr for Iran was estimated to be being built by Atomstroyexport for a total of 184 million dollars. One of the final steps in the construction of the plant was delayed because Atomstroyexport publically accused the Iranian government of not paying its bill in a timely manner. The Iranians countered that the problems were due to political pressure by the west. The Russians delivered 163 basic and 17 emergency fuel assemblies totaling 82 metric tons of uranium of 3.62 percent uranium 235 purity. Before the containers of nuclear material left Russia they were sealed by members of the IAEA and placed into special containment facilities. IAEA inspectors watched over the handover of nuclear fuel. As per the agreement between Russia and Iran concerning the delivery, when the fuel had been spent, expected to occur after ten years of operation, the waste would be returned to Russia.
The first delivery took place on 16 December 2007. The second shipment contained 24 fuel rods shipped via air to the Bushehr on the night of the 27/28 December 2007. The third batch of fuel was delivered 18 January 2008 and was delivered via cargo plane. The shipment contained 24 fuel assemblies (FA), 9 control and protection system rods (CPS) and 9 burnable poison bundles (BPB). On the night of 19/20 January 2008 the fourth portion of nuclear material was delivered. This shipment contained 24 FA, 12 CPS rods and 8 burnable absorber bundles. The fifth shipment of nuclear fuel was in Iran on the night of the 21 January 2008 and contained 24 FA, 10 control rods and 10 absorber rod bundles. The sixth delivery took place on 23/24 January 2008. This shipment weighted 17 metric tons included 24 fuel assemblies, a set of control rods and burnable absorber bundles. The AEOI stated the seventh delivery of nuclear materials occurred on 26 January 2008. The final five metric ton bundle arrived on 28 January 2008.
It was thought that once the fuel had been delivered, and given that one of the two pressurized water reactors was very nearly completed, the plant would start working as early as July to September of 2008.
On August 13, 2010, the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) announced that the first reactor at the Bushehr NPP would be loaded with nuclear fuel on August 21, 2010 and would henceforth make the Bushehr facility qualified as an operational nuclear power plant. The process for transferring the fuel to the pool located near the heart of reactor was estimated to take seven to eight days
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|