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Workers in a part of the electricity generating plant of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, just outside the southern city of Bushehr, Iran, today. Majid Asgaripour/AP/Press Association Images

Iran begins loading fuel into nuclear reactor core

The electricity-generating Bushehr Plant begins key phase in setting up its operations.

IRAN HAS BEGUN LOADING FUEL into the core of its nuclear power plant outside the southern city of Bushehr.

Press TV reports that the plant will become operational once all 163 fuel rods are inserted. It is expected to begin generating electricity early next year.

The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation told Reuters that today marked a major step in the plant’s development:

This day will be remembered… because it was the day when fuel was lowered into the core of the reactor.

Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme has alarmed Western countries, leading to four rounds of UN sanctions against Iran, the BBC reports.

However, experts say that so long as the plant is Russian-operated and continues to be supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the development of nuclear weapons remains unlikely, according to the BBC.

At 3.5% enrichment, the uranium being used at Bushehr is far below the level required for developing nuclear weapons, which must be enriched over 90%.

The head of Iran’s parliamentary committee on foreign policy and national security, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, said the nuclear plant’s fuelling was a victory against sanctions:

What counts a lot in this process is that America mobilized all its resources across the world to ratchet up the pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran and they believe that imposing sanctions on us will deter us from making progress.

However, Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Reuters that the Bushehr plant’s fuelling should not be confused with the enrichment programme which has been alarming Western analysts:

Nobody has asked them to stop on Bushehr. I think it is a big mistake to equate these two issues.

The Bushehr plant was built in conjunction with Russia, which has an agreement to supply nuclear fuel to Iran on the condition that the spent rods are returned to Russia. The project has been delayed for 40 years. Officials today denied that the Stuxnet virus delayed the project, but admitted that some of the plant’s computers were infected.

[caption id="attachment_38970" align="alignnone" width="512" caption="The reactor building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant just outside the southern city of Bushehr. (Majid Asgaripour/AP/Press Association Images)"][/caption]

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