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26 Oct, 2010 06:40

Iran begins loading nuclear fuel

Staff at Iran’s first nuclear power station have started loading Russian-made fuel rods into the reactor's core, bringing it a step closer to generating electricity.

Construction of the Bushehr power plant started in 1974, but in 1980, the German contractors had to terminate the contract when Germany joined US sanctions against Iran. In the 1990s, Moscow agreed to complete the project.

Since late August, when the nuclear fuel rods were delivered to the reactor zone, Russian and Iranian technicians have been preparing to bring the station online.

“Iranians have been trying very hard to deal with the sanctions,” said Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization. “And today we witnessed a milestone in the launch of this plant. The fuel is being loaded into the core of the reactor, so this is the final phase of that process. After the fuel is completely loaded in a few months, the reactor will start running at 50% of annual capacity.”

The Bushehr power plant will start contributing to the power grid at the end of this year, or January 2011. It will run at half capacity from then until April, when it is expected to operate at full capacity.