TEHRAN, Iran – Iran received a third shipment of nuclear fuel from Russia on Friday for a power plant being constructed in the southern port of Bushehr, state radio reported.
The 11-ton consignment arrived at the Bushehr power plant on Friday morning, and the remainder of the fuel will arrive in five separate shipments in coming months, the radio report said.
Iran received the first two shipments of nuclear fuel from Russia on Dec. 17 and Dec. 28 after months of dispute between the two countries, allegedly over delayed construction payments for the reactor.
Iran has said Bushehr, the country’s first nuclear reactor, will begin operating in the summer of 2008, producing half its 1,000-megawatt capacity of electricity.
Tehran heralded the first 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. 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.
The United States and Russia have 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 has agreed with Russia to return the spent fuel to ensure it doesn’t extract plutonium to build 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.
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.