Change at the top in Iran

19 August 2013

Former foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi has returned to the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI) as its head. He will soon lead negotiations with Russia on the potential supply of new nuclear reactors, set to begin once Bushehr is handed over.  

Iran's new president Hassan Rouhani took over from Mahmoud Ahmedinejad earlier this month and last week sent Salehi back to his former job leading the AEOI, which is responsible for all nuclear development in the country.

Russia completed the reactor at Bushehr, building a VVER unit within pre-existing buildings and using components kept in storage since a Siemens-led construction project was halted in 1979. The reactor started up last year and has been generating at full power since late July, with Russian managers gradually handing over responsibility to AEOI. Once this process is complete, Rosatom said, more serious negotiations on further new units could begin. Among Salehi's last acts at the foreign ministry was to draft a memorandum of understanding between Iran and Russia which, when finalised, would pave the way for new reactor construction.

The AEOI has previously said that it would like to add up to three more large power reactors to the Bushehr site. Rosatom made clear that, 'Any decision on the continuation of cooperation depends on two conditions: such cooperation should be cost-effective and comply with Russia's international obligations.'

Nuclear fuel for Bushehr - including uranium mining, enrichment and fuel fabrication - is provided by Russia, where it will return after use. The power plant operates under the full safeguards regime implemented by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

As well as the ownership and operation of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, AEOI's brief includes the controversial aspects of the country's program such as uranium enrichment and research reactor construction. Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endownment for International Peace told WNN: "Unlike Abbasi-Davani, who for five years has been on a UN Security Council sanctions list, is suspected by some governments as having directly contributed to military nuclear weapons-related activities, and has survived foreign assassination attempts, Salehi has remained in comfortable contact with foreign counterparts in and out of official circles."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News