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Iran to start up nuclear reactor

Iranian and Russian engineers have begun loading fuel into Iran's first nuclear power plant.

The news is a major milestone as Tehran forges ahead with its atomic programme despite United Nations sanctions.

The week-long operation to load fuel into the reactor at the Bushehr power plant in southern Iran ends years of foot-dragging by Russia, which signed a £640 million contract in 1995 to build the plant but delayed its completion several times.

Russia is one of six world powers leading efforts to ensure Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and Moscow says the Bushehr project is essential for persuading Iran to co-operate.

But the US disagrees, saying Iran should not be rewarded while it defies UN demands.

Iran insists its programme is only for energy production.

"The start-up operations will be a big success for Iran," conservative MP Javad Karimi said in Tehran. "It also shows Iran's resolve and capability in pursuing its nuclear activities."

Russia has pledged to safeguard the site and prevent spent nuclear fuel from being shifted to a possible weapons programme.

The first truckload of fuel was taken from a storage site to a fuel "pool" inside the reactor building. Over the next 10 days, 163 fuel assemblies - equal to 80 tons of uranium fuel - will be moved inside the building and then into the reactor core.


From Belfast Telegraph