Iran defends "normal procedures" at Bushehr nuclear plant

Sun Nov 18, 2012 2:41pm EST
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By Fredrik Dahl

VIENNA (Reuters) - An Iranian diplomat said on Sunday Iran had unloaded fuel from its first atomic power plant as part of a normal technical procedure linked to transferring responsibility for the plant from Russian engineers.

The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report two days ago on Iran's nuclear program that fuel was unloaded from the Bushehr plant in October and transferred to a spent fuel pond. It came some two months after Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom said the long-postponed plant was operating at full capacity.

Bushehr is a symbol of what the Islamic Republic says is its peaceful nuclear ambitions, disputed by the West, and any new hitch would probably be seen as an embarrassment both for Tehran and Moscow.

It was plugged into Iran's national grid in September 2011, a move intended to end years of delays in its construction.

The report, submitted to IAEA member states late on Friday, did not give a reason for the fuel removal at the 1,000-megawatt reactor near the Gulf city of Bushehr. A diplomat familiar with the issue said it meant the plant was shut down.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, suggested the fuel move was linked to the gradual transfer of responsibility for operating the plant from Russia to Iran.

It is a "very normal technical procedure (during the transfer) ... to make sure every safety aspect is taken into consideration," he told Reuters, without giving details.

COOLING DOWN   Continued...