Iran Receives Second Nuclear Fuel Shipment From Russia

Iran received the second shipment of nuclear fuel from Russia on Friday for a power plant being constructed in the southern Iranian town of Bushehr, the official news agency IRNA reported.

The delivery signaled continued momentum toward beginning operations at the long-delayed 1,000 megawatt light-water reactor, which the Russians are helping to construct and the Iranians say will come online in 2008.

Ahmad Fayazbakhsh, deputy head of Iran's nuclear organization, said the fuel was delivered according to a schedule agreed with the Russians, which IRNA indicated would bring 82 tons of nuclear fuel in eight shipments.

"The amount of fuel delivered to Bushehr was equal to the previous shipment," Fayazbakhsh was quoted as saying by IRNA. "It was delivered within a specified timetable."

The Russian firm helping build the Bushehr reactor, Atomstroyexport, confirmed the delivery.

Iran received the first shipment of nuclear fuel from Russia on Dec. 17 after months of dispute between the two countries, allegedly over delayed construction payments for the reactor.

Tehran heralded the initial shipment as a victory, saying it proved its nuclear program was peaceful, not a cover for weapons development as claimed by the U.S. and some of its allies.

The U.S. downplayed the first delivery, and both Washington and Moscow said the supply of nuclear fuel meant Iran had no need to continue its uranium enrichment program — a process that can provide fuel for a reactor or fissile material for a bomb.

Iran insisted it would continue enriching uranium because it needed to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it was building in the southwestern town of Darkhovin.

Iranian officials have said they plan to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity through nuclear energy in the next two decades.

The U.S. initially opposed Russian participation in building the Bushehr reactor and supplying it with fuel but reversed its position about a year ago to obtain Moscow's support for the first set of U.N. sanctions against Iran.

Washington also was influenced by Iran's agreement to return spent nuclear fuel from the reactor back to Russia to ensure it doesn't extract plutonium to make atomic bombs.

Russia's decision to begin shipping nuclear fuel to Iran followed a U.S. intelligence report released earlier this month that concluded Tehran had stopped its nuclear weapons program in late 2003 and had not resumed it since. Iran says it never had a weapons program.

The U.S. has pushed through two sets of U.N. sanctions against Iran demanding it suspend uranium enrichment and has been urging Security Council members to pass a third set.

Iran has defied U.N. demands, and Washington's effort to impose harsher measures has been complicated by the recent intelligence report and resistance from Russia and China.