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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Progress at Reactor I

A major question involved with the Bushehr site concerned the degree to which the site was complete and the estimated time until the facility became fully operational. The original contract signed by the Russians and the Iranians set delivery to be no later than 19 March 2004 (or the end of the Iranian year 1382).

High resolution satellite imagery, from the Space Imaging IKONOS satellite (subsequently owned by GeoEye), disclosed that the external structure of the first reactor unit was substantially complete. In comparison with lower resolution imagery from the late 1990s, it was quite evident that substantial progress had been made in preparing the unit for the installation of the reactor and associated equipement. There was little evidence of progress towards completion of the second reactor unit.

During a March 2001 Moscow summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, delays in delivering the first plant, first ordered in the mid-1990s, had been a source of friction between Iran and Russia.

In April 2001 an Iranian News Agency report it was stated that the main nuclear reactor had already been completed and was being transported from Russia to Bushehr. The reports also stated that as of April 2001, the first phase of the construction project was 51 percent complete, though it was unclear how many phases are involved in the projects construction.

A June 27, 2001 Interfax report claimed that the Bushehr facility was over 80 percent complete, despite numerous work slowdowns associated with the pouring of additional concrete so that the German building might properly house the Russian system, and it appeared at the time that the original blueprints for the facility had to be remade. Additionally, Russian and Iranian officils were quoted as August 2001 as saying that the facility would be completed by the end of 2001. Leningrad Metallurgy Plant stated in early August 2001 that the assembly of the main components of the 1,000 MW turbine would be complete in December 2001. It was unclear what the status of the rest of the system was, as officials in Tehran were quoted in the 10 May 2001 MEED Quarterly Report - Iran as saying that Bushehr might not come on line for another three years.

On 4 September 2001 the Interfax News Agency bulletin quoted Deputy Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Reshetnikov as saying that Unit I at Bushehr would not be complete until early 2004, that the actual reactor would be sent to Bushehr in November 2001, and that the Russians had begun to install the main equipment, noting that the project was 55 to 60 percent complete.

Reports indicated that the core casing, the upper unit of the reactor and some other units were delivered to Iran in November 2001.

In March 2002 Russian Nuclear Minister Alexander Rumyantsev said that the Bushehr reactor would be completed by 2005 as planned, noting that "Iran has signed all required international agreements and undertaken full obligations on transparency and checks...and unfailingly fulfilled them." He said that under a new law passed by the Russian parliament in 2001, which strengthened non-proliferation guarantees by allowing spent fuel from nuclear power plants abroad taken back to Russia for reprocessing, Russia "will ship nuclear fuel to Iran under the contract which envisages that the spent fuel will be taken back to Russia."

A 15 February 2002 Interfax News Agency report quoted sources within the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy that Unit 1 of the Bushehr facility would be operational in September 2003.

An 17 April 2002, gave quotes from the Head of the Iranian Parliament's Energy Commission who stated that the first phase of the Bushehr plant would become operational in September 2002.

A 10 May 2002 Washington Times article by Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough reported that several batteries of US made Improved HAWK (I-HAWK) Surface-to-Air Missiles had been placed around Bushehr. The report cited leaked information from intelligence sources who claimed that recent satellite imagery showed the HAWKs.

As of mid-2002 Russia had around 600 workers in Bushehr building the 1,000-megawatt reactor. At that time the installation of the reactor's main turbine was expected to begin as soon as August 2002.

On 25 December 2002 Iran and Russia signed an agreement to speed up the completion of the nuclear power plant. Under the one-billion-dollar deal, Russia had initially undertaken to finish the Bushehr plant by 2005, but the country later announced it could be completed by the end of 2003.

Taking part in a joint press conference on 25 December 2002, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Romyantsov and head of the Atomic Energy Agency of Iran (AEOI), Gholam-Reza Aqazadeh said that the Bushehr nuclear site was to come on stream by the end of 2003, after Russia declared it was preparing to adjust the Bushehr site's equipment.

Visiting Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov in a news conference on 11 March 2003 said Moscow would continue its nuclear-energy cooperation with Iran within the guidelines of the IAEA. The Bushehr nuclear power plant was to come on line during the "latter part" of the next Iranian year that began on 21 March 2003, its manager Nasser Shariflu told the Persian daily "Iran" on 11 March 2003. Shariflu said Iran and Russia had begun talks on building a second such plant in Bushehr. He said most of the construction work of the first plant was complete and that Iranian experts and more than 1,000 Russian technicians were then installing "peripheral" equipment. He said that 750 Iranian technicians who were trained in Russia would take over the operations of the plant, which Shariflu said would produce 1,000 megawatts of power during its first phase.

ITAR-TASS reported that the Russian-Iranian coordination committee met in Novovoronezh on 11 March 2003 to discuss the training of Iranian personnel to work at the Bushehr nuclear reactor. By the time Bushehr was expected to become operational in 2004, more than 700 Iranians would have been trained in more than 30 nuclear specialties. More than 400 Iranians already would have been trained in total. Training center Director Aleksandr Ivanchenko said, "They are good professionals with university degrees, also from European universities, who have been carefully selected for training."

Independent defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer suggested in an 5 June 2003 op-ed for The Moscow Times that "In the last year the building of the Bushehr reactor has been legally taken over by one of Russia's oligarchs, and the [Atomic Energy] Ministry is not in charge anymore. The Iranians are paying very generously, in cash, for work done. If the US wants to stop the nuclear cooperation promptly, it should talk compensation with the real people in charge, not irrelevant officials, including President Vladimir Putin." Felgenhauer referenced the United Heavy Machinery (OMZ), headed by Kakha Bendukidze, who was a vocal member of the oligarchic lobbying club known as the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. OMZ had at the time recently took a plunge into nuclear-power engineering. In March, OMZ purchased a 19.9 percent stake in Atomenergoexport (AEE) and a 50.94 percent stake in Zarubezhenergoproekt, Izvestiya reported on 28 March 2003. AEE subsidiary Atomstroiexport was building the Bushehr reactor, and OMZ was its main subcontractor.

Iranian officials said they expected the reactor to come on line in late 2003 or early 2004. In early June 2003 Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev was reported to have said the Bushehr reactor was set to open in 2005, not 2004 as originally planned, because some equipment had to be replaced. Some observers suggested that the delay might indicated that Moscow had tacitly yielded to US pressure to slow down the project until Iran proved it was not covertly building nuclear weapons.

Israel's Yediot Aharonot newspaper reported on 23 August 2004 that Israeli officials were skeptical about Iranian claims that the completion of the Bushehr nuclear reactor would be delayed by one year. According to the Israeli daily, Israeli and US satellite imagery showed that the water pipes needed to cool the reactor were installed in 2002, and "according to Israeli experts, that is proof that the reactor has reached the point where it is being prepared for operation." An anonymous "Israeli expert" claimed that the "Iranians are conducting a massive cover-up about the reactor."

On 13 November 2005 the head of Russia's Security Council said work to build the nuclear-power plant in Iran was more than 80 percent completed. Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov, on a visit to Tehran, said Russian specialists were actively working at the Bushehr facility in southern Iran. At that time the $800 million Russian-built reactor was scheduled to come on line by the end of 2006.

The Russian company building Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant said October 22, 2012 the second reactor for the plant will be ready for commissioning in March 2013. The general director of the NIAEP subsidiary of Russia's state nuclear agency, Valery Limarenko, said recent technical-engineering solutions would speed up work at Bushehr. The first unit at Bushehr was brought to full capacity at the end of August 2012 after several delays. Also in March 2013, Atomstroieksport, the Russian contractor for the Iranian nuclear plant, will transfer the plant's operations over to Iranian technicians. But Limarenko said some 300 Russian specialists would remain to help operate the facility.

Spokesman of Russian State Company ”Rosatom“ Sergey Novikov declared 19 September 2012 that Bushehr nuclear power plant will be commissioned industrially at the end of this year. Novikov in an interview with Ria-novosti News Agency, by referring to meeting between Sergey Kirienko, Director General of Rosatom State Company with Head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Fereydoun Abbasi on the sidelines of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) annual meeting said that the two sides referred to successful implementation of Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, which has reached its 100 percent capacity and will be commissioned industrially at the end of current year of 2012.

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Page last modified: 27-10-2012 19:22:25 ZULU