Iran Begins Loading Fuel in Russian-Built Nuclear Plant


Iran began loading fuel into the reactor core of its Russian-built nuclear power plant on Tuesday, a move which brings the facility closer to generating electricity after decades of delay.

In a report from the plant in the southern city of Bushehr, the Arabic-language Al-Alam channel of public television said engineers "started loading the core of the Bushehr power plant with the nuclear fuel today".

The nuclear material is provided by Moscow which also recovers the spent fuel.

Iran had begun transferring the fuel to the facility on August 21, a process which was described as the "physical launch" of the power plant by Russia which had taken over the construction of the complex in the mid 1990s.

On October 4, Iran's atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi said the power plant would be ready to generate electricity by January -- two months later than previously announced.

The process of loading the fuel has suffered some hiccups, which Salehi has previously blamed on "severe hot weather" in Bushehr.

Iran says it needs the plant, which had been under construction from the 1970s before being completed by Russia, to meet growing demand for electricity.

But Western governments suspect Iran's nuclear program is cover for a drive for an atomic weapons capability, an ambition Tehran denies.

Iran is under four sets of United Nations sanctions over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, the sensitive process which can be used to make nuclear fuel or, in highly extended form, the fissile core of an atom bomb.(AFP)