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Wednesday, October 6, 2010     GET YOUR INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Iran again changes its story on reactor operations

NICOSIA — Iran has again pushed back the date for full operations at its first reactor in Bushehr after an attack of foreign origins by the computer virus Stuxnet made headlines worldwide.


The Iranian Atomic Energy Organization said that the 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactor in Bushehr would not be ready for full operations until the spring of 2011. Only two weeks ago, the agency said the reactor would reach full capacity by January 2011.

This marked the second time in as many days that Salehi reported delays in Bushehr. On Oct. 4, Iran's nuclear chief reported a leak in a pool in Bushehr that set back operations for what he said would be several days.

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The start of operations at Bushehr was first scheduled for Sept. 2, with the installation of nuclear fuel rods provided by Russia. But over the last month, Bushehr was reported to have sustained a series of setbacks, including an attack by the Stuxnet computer virus.

"I hope that the Bushehr nuclear power plant can generate [electricity] with full nominal power next spring," Atomic Energy Organization director Ali Akhbar Salehi said.

In a briefing on Oct. 5, Salehi reported the latest revision of Bushehr's operational timetable. He said nuclear fuel rods would be installed in Bushehr by mid-November 2010 and a month later the reactor would reach 40 percent capacity.

The full operation of Bushehr, Salehi said, would begin no earlier than April 2011. He again did not rule out the prospect of another delay in reactor operations.

In late September, Salehi said Bushehr would begin operations within weeks and link with the national grid by November. The pool leak marked the first time that Iran explained any of the recent delays in the reactor.

Salehi's timetable of Bushehr's operations differed significantly from the reactor's Russian prime contractor, the state-owned Atomstroyexport. On Oct. 6, Atomstroyexport said the nuclear fuel rods would be loaded into Bushehr in October 2010.

"The entire load of fuel has been delivered to the rector repository," an Atomstroyexport spokeswoman told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. "The loading of the fuel into the reactor is scheduled for October 2010."

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