Russia to provide nuclear fuel to Iran

Thursday, March 13, 2003

MOSCOW Russia has signed a contract to supply nuclear fuel to Iran.

The contract ends months of delays between the two countries regarding guarantees that spent nuclear fuel would be returned to Russia. Last month, Iran relayed a pledge to return spent nuclear fuel, which could be used to produce nuclear weapons.

Russia's TVEL signed a contract with Iran for the delivery of nuclear fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power plant. Russian industry sources said TVEL could begin to supply the fuel toward the end of 2003, Middle East Newsline reported.

The agreement is a key element in the Russian construction of the Bushehr facility, reported at $800 million. The first unit of Bushehr is planned to begin operations in 2004.

Russian Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev said his ministry will deliver the first shipment of fuel for the Bushehr reactor. That shipment, he said, will be composed of 40 tons of fuel.

Following the delivery, Rumyantsev said, TVEL will be responsible for supplying nuclear fuel to Bushehr. He said his ministry's marketing division, Tekhsnabeksport, will remove spent nuclear fuel from Iran.

During a visit this week to Teheran, Rumyantsev backtracked from his insistence on Feb. 21 that Iran was incapable of producing nuclear weapons. The minister said Russia's involvement in Iran's nuclear programs is limited to the first stage of the Bushehr plant.

"While Russia is helping Iran build its nuclear power plant, it's not being informed by Iran of all the other projects that are currently under way," Rumyantsev said. "We have no information about the existence of such dual-use technology because we are only involved in the first phase of a nuclear power plant in Bushehr."

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