Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are set on Thursday to finish sealing uranium fuel that Russia intends to send to Iran’s first atomic power station, a Russian nuclear official said. Completion of the task will be a major step Russia needs if it is to ship the uranium to Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power station. Once sealed, Russia could swiftly ship the fuel.
“The IAEA team is concluding its work at the plant today,” the spokesman said, referring to the Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrate Plant where the fuel is stored.
Russia has given no date for when it will send the nuclear fuel to Bushehr, but says shipment would need to occur six months before the plant’s repeatedly delayed start-up.
Under current Russian forecasts, plant reactors could be started up in 2008, with nuclear fuel arriving at the plant six months prior.
Sealing fuel is the clearest indication yet that Moscow is ready to send the uranium to Iran, a move indicating Moscow’s support for Iran’s peaceful nuclear programs.
Some Russian media have suggested next spring as a time when the fuel may be sent to Iran, though nuclear officials refuse to speculate on when the fuel could be shipped. Spring in the northern hemisphere officially starts March 15.
The United States, Israel and key European Union nations allege Iran is trying to build nuclear bombs, but they don’t have any corroborative evidence to substantiate their allegations.
But Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, says there is no evidence Tehran is seeking atomic weapons.
An IAEA report earlier this month vindicated Tehran’s repeated statements that its nuclear program is purely civilian and showed that there would be no basis for further discussion of it in the United Nations Security Council.
The IAEA report said Iran had made important strides toward transparency about its nuclear activity and praised Tehran’s cooperation.
It also underlined Tehran’s truthfulness in explaining past nuclear activities.