Iran-Russia nuclear plant "could be first of many"

Construction work on second reactor at Bushehr nuclear plant has begun

The Bushehr plant is now plugged into the Iranian power grid. Photo: Getty
The Bushehr plant is now plugged into the Iranian power grid. Photo: Getty


Iran's first nuclear plant located at Bushehr could be the first of many on the Gulf coast thanks to lessons learned on the project that has spanned four decades, according to Russia's Centre for Energy and Security Studies (CESS).

The plant's reactor went live on September 4, and the technology and machinery utilised is the culmination of work started by Germany in the 1970s and carried on by Russia since 1992.

The 1,000MW plant is said to have cost $1 billion and despite numerous delays caused by late Iranian payments, suppliers being blocked by sanctions and pressure by various US Administrations in Washington, it is now supplying electricity to the national grid.

Work on a second reactor at Bushehr is also now underway, the CESS has reported.

While lran remains heavily sanctioned and its nuclear programme the subject of global scrutiny and an indentified threat to US and Western security - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Russia three years ago to discontinue work on the reactor - the Russian organisation believes that the subcontractors and technology now exist to maintain momentum in the country's nuclear plant programme.

In its report, The Bushehr NPP, why did it take so long?, the CESS said that the construction of the plant was not helped by UN resolutions making it difficult to ship equipment to Iran.

“Although the sanctions do not impinge on the Bushehr plant directly, they do create additional difficulties in its implementation,” the report explained. “In particular, they have made the procedure of signing contracts with third country suppliers much more complex. There have also been problems with the transit of shipments to Iran.

“On March 29, 2008 a cargo of heat insulation equipment for the Bushehr NPP en route from Russia to Iran was seized on the Azeri-Iranian border. In view of the recent sanctions imposed on Iran, Azeri customs officials requested additional information about the cargo's technical specifications and intended use, which caused a delay of more than a month.”

Looking ahead the CESS report said: “the project has given both Russia and Iran some valuable experience of cooperation in the construction of a nuclear power plant”.

It explained: “That experience (some of it positive, and some negative) can now be used to build more nuclear power plants in Iran, especially the second reactor unit at Bushehr (provided that there is political will in Russia). Most of the technical and technology problems in Russian-Iranian nuclear cooperation mentioned in this article have already been resolved.”

“Russia has now identified the subcontractors that can be relied upon to deliver. Mutual understanding has been reached with the Iranians that the proposed second reactor unit should be built from scratch instead of trying to integrate it into the existing German-built frame.”

The report concluded: “There is also greater willingness in Russia to provide government support to joint NPP projects. The only obvious factor that is working against further Russian-Iranian cooperation in this area is the questions which the IAEA still has about Iran's undeclared nuclear activities.

“Any decisions on the proposed second Bushehr reactor would have to wait until Iran answers the key remaining questions on its past undeclared nuclear activities, and until the most sensitive issues of the Iranian nuclear dossier are resolved. Meanwhile, the very first step towards a second Bushehr reactor has already been made now that the first reactor has finally been launched.”


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