Iran Close to Completing Its First Nuclear Reactor. Should We Worry?

By Andrew Moseman | October 26, 2010 1:12 pm

Nuclear IranAfter decades of development, Iran’s first nuclear power plant is close to operational. This week the country’s TV service announced that engineers have begun loading the fuel rods into the core of the Bushehr plant in southern Iran.

The 1,000-megawatt Bushehr plant has been under construction since before Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. It was first contracted to a company that later became German industrial giant Siemens; more recently work was done with the help of Russia’s state-owned atomic energy company. [Los Angeles Times]

The plant’s 1000-megawatt capacity is comparable to the power put out by many of the nuclear plants scattered across the United States.

Iran‘s power plant was reportedly one target of the Stuxnet computer virus that emerged several weeks ago, but apparently that didn’t impair the final steps of preparing Bushehr.

The nuclear reactor would begin operating after all 163 fuel rods are inserted into the core, and is expected to begin generating electricity by early 2011, according to Press TV. Iran has declared plans to build 20 nuclear power plants in the next 20 years. [Christian Science Monitor]

Of course, Iran’s moves are news because the United States and other nations contend that what Iran really wants is nuclear weaponry, not nuclear power. The United States, the European Union, and the United Nations have all passed sanctions on Iran in response to its refusal to halt its uranium enrichment projects. However, Reuters reports that the U.S. has backed off any talk of Bushehr as a nuclear proliferation risk, and many onlookers say that Iran really couldn’t do any weapons development with their new power plant.

“There are some fairly rigorous … checks and balances built into the operation of the plant,” said Middle East analyst David Hartwell at IHS Jane’s, a global risk consultancy. Uranium enriched to about 5 percent fissile purity is used as fuel for power plants. If refined to 80-90 percent purity, it provides the fissile core of nuclear weapons. [Reuters]

Furthermore, Iran is required to return the spent fuel—which potentially could be used in weapons development—to Russia. That country supplied the fuel in the first place, and has oversight responsibilities. So the project will go forward… and the United States will stay nervous.

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Image: iStockphoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
  • nick

    Considering Iran has never threatened us without us threatening them first, or overthrowing their democratically elected government first…

    I guess we should worry, because we overthrew their democratically elected goverment (or at least were instrumental in the overthrowing of, see Iranian history c. 1950) so they have quite a bit of right to be pissed at us. Sins of the father, and all that.

  • Gen

    lol US the country of paranoia much?

  • scribbler

    So, I have no right to object to Iran nuking my grandkids because they have it coming?

  • Rabidmob

    Obviously the use of nuclear weapons is a terrible idea in any case. As they’re not weapons of military purpose, but weapons meant to kill people by the thousands and millions.

    Paranoia, vigilance, call it what you want, but the US would be silly to think that they won’t try to make a nuclear bomb on the side or something

    I take no comfort that the Russians are, “Iran’s big brother,” they have little to no interest in the safety of the U.S.

  • cray

    Nick is the perfect example of the insane Democrat. So Iranians haven’t killed American soldiers in both Iraq and Afghanistan? So Iran has a “democratic” government? Yeah, protestors here in democratic America get shot down in the streets all the time. Didn’t Iran threaten to wipe Israel off the map? But they deserve it because they’re mean, rich Jooos. I’ll bet you think the only true source of evil in the world is Glenn Beck, right? Wow.

  • Georg

    Nick may be the “insane” Democrat, but You are the typical
    American pharisee.
    Only the silliest believe in their own propaganda.
    Foreign policy is neither made with pure “democratic”
    nor military methods, one should use brain.
    How to do that? Look at Britain before it became a “Democracy”.

  • Earl Wajenberg

    Perhaps Nick is refering to the government that preceded the Shah, not the current one?

  • Brian Too

    It might be a bit paranoid to worry about this reactor, but India did it when they got power reactors. And more recently Pakistan developed the bomb and lots of locals thought it was great. Then they had a scientist sell the recipe to North Korea…

    All these countries have decided that they want a chip in the big game. Nuclear weapons buy a form of status. Never mind that you can never use them as such; they are bargaining power.

  • Jack


    If history is unimportant, then the state of Israel should not exist.

  • fatkid

    I’m with Georg. Also, worrying about Irans nukes is pointless- Israel will bomb any facility that is ready to go online.

  • rut ham cau

    I am not capable of view this website properly on firefox I feel theres a problem


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