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Tuesday, December 18, 2007       Free Headline Alerts

80 tons of Russian nuclear fuel reaches Iran after 9-month delay

NICOSIA Russia has sent the first shipment of nuclear fuel to Iran after a series of delays.

Officials said the nuclear fuel shipment left Russia on Dec. 16 and arrived in Iran the following day. They said the first shipment of 80 tons of nuclear fuel was for Iran's Bushehr nuclear energy reactor.

The Russian shipment followed a delay of nine months. In 2006, Moscow pledged to send the first nuclear shipment for Bushehr by March 2007, Middle East Newsline reported.

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"The issue of Bushehr nuclear power plant's fuel is not a new issue, and plans had already been adopted for its shipment," Iranian Supreme National Security Council secretary-general Ali Larijani said. "The shipment project started as of today."

Officials said the nuclear fuel would accelerate efforts to complete the 1,000 megawatt Bushehr reactor, about four years behind schedule. They said the $1 billion reactor could begin full operations by October 2008.

"The first shipment of fuel for the Bushehr plant has arrived in Iran," Iranian Atomic Energy Organization director-general Gholamreza Aqazadeh said.

The United States, whose intelligence community determined that Teheran abandoned its nuclear weapons program, did not protest the Russian nuclear fuel shipment. A White House statement said the Russian delivery meant that Teheran should end its uranium enrichment program.

"If the Russians are providing the Iranians fuel, the Iranians have no reason to enrich uranium themselves," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

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