Iran’s nuclear power plant in Bushehr has been put online, Iranian Foreign Minister said today, adding that the plant would become fully operational within several weeks.
The plant’s operation was delayed by several months after last year Iranian officials estimated that the Stuxnet virus had hit Bushehr staff computers, adding, however, that the cyber attack did not affect major systems.
When Iran began loading fuel into Bushehr in August, officials said it would take two to three months for the plant to start producing electricity and that it would generate 1,000 megawatts, about 2.5 percent of the country’s power usage.
On Wednesday, however, the official Iranian news agency quoted the country’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying that, as the Iranian regime “previously announced, Bushehr power plant has reached the criticality stage, [meaning] it has been successfully launched.”
The fission process, according to the country’s state-run Press TV, or criticality, allows the atoms to split by themselves in a chain reaction without interference from operators.
“This stage lasts for two months. We hope the plant will gain some 40 percent of its power within the next one to two months,” Salehi added.
He added that work has progressed at the site despite a two-month gap over a “technical glitch” in one of the pumps at the plant.
“We assure the [Iranian] nation that safety has the final say in Bushehr power plant,” Salehi pointed out.
Last week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov indicated that the Bushehr plant would be fully operational within weeks, telling the state-run news agency RIA that the plant was “a longstanding project and so I would refrain from naming concrete dates — but we are already on the threshold of the final launch of the reactor.”
The construction of the plant began in the 1970s by a German consortium, but was abandoned after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and has faced repeated delays since the mid-1990s, when Russia began work to complete it under a billion-dollar deal with Tehran.
The United States and other Western nations have urged Russia to abandon the project for years, fearing it would help Iran develop nuclear weapons. But an agreement obliging Tehran to repatriate spent nuclear fuel to Russia has eased those concerns.