Russian nuclear engineers are to begin loading fuel into the reactor of Iran’s first nuclear power plant in just over a week’s time.
After nearly 40 years of delays, the Bushehr plant could be operational within six months generating electricity for Iranian cities.
The uranium fuel rods being deployed are enriched to a level too low to be used for nuclear weapons and Russian officials are keen to stress the presence of independent observers.
A spokesman for the Russian state atomic corporation Sergei Novikov said: “The fuel was supplied by Russia quite a while ago. It has been kept in storage for over a year.
“The fuel was delivered and kept under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA inspector will remove the seals from the containers packed for transportation. Under their control, the fuel will be taken out and placed in storage next to the reactor.”
Washington has given a guarded response to the news saying it does not regard the plant as a proliferation risk but emphasised broader concerns about the direction of Iran’s nuclear programme.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said: “If the Iranians are sincere in a peaceful programme, their needs can be met without undertaking its own enrichment programme, which call into question its motives.”
The United States has, in the past, criticised Moscow for pushing ahead with the Bushehr project at a time when Western nations are pressing Tehran
to allay fears that its nuclear energy programme may be geared to develop weapons.