Bushehr approaches commissioning

04 April 2007

As political problems surrounding Iran's uranium enrichment program grow more severe, parts of the Bushehr reactor are being prepared for commissioning and talks are being planned on further reactors.

Iran's determination to develop a domestic uranium enrichment facility has led to the imposition of sanctions by the UN Security Council and serious international tension. Meanwhile, the separate project to develop Iran's first nuclear power plant, Bushehr 1, which is proceeding with its own problems, may lead to further nuclear power plants.

Bushehr 1 will be a unique VVER-1000 pressurised water reactor (PWR), built by AtomStroyExport (ASE) from pre-existing site works made by Siemens. Bushehr 1 was originally intended to be a Kraftwerk Union PWR to supply about 1200 MWe to the grid from 1981. Work was 85% complete when the project was halted after Iran's Islamic Revolution of 1979. In 2002 ASE signed a deal to complete the unit to its own design.

Russian contractors, led by ASE have claimed that Iranian officials have not been paying the full monthly amount and delayed the shipment of fuel to the reactor by at least two months.

Vice President of Iran and head of the Iran Atomic Energy Organisation (IAEO), Reza Aqazadeh, recently said: "Once fuel is supplied, there will be no obstacle in way of its completion." But the financial dispute continues: according to ASE's Irina Yesipova, Iran's payment for the month of March was only $10 million - about $15 million short.

But work continues at Bushehr: On 3 April a ceremony was held to mark the completion of Bushehr's emergency back-up diesel generators, which would generate 360 kW for essential plant equipment during an emergency. Attending the event, Aqazadeh said that Bushehr was 92% complete. A water purification and cooling system was inaugrated at the same time.

On 29 March ASE announced that 'scheduled pre-commissioning' activities were underway at Bushehr involving primary process system flushing and the filling of primary emergency cooling accumulators with demineralzed water.

A delegation from ASE will also soon visit Iran to discuss the status of the project. It will also be discussing the possibility of building more plants in Iran. Mohannad Saeedi told the Islamic Republic News Agency on 3 April that the organisation would hold a tender on 2000 MWe of new nuclear capacity in the next three to four months. The second reactor at the Bushehr site would be a likely candidate, being another partially complete plant. Approval for work on a second unit at Bushehr was granted in 2003.

Further information

WNN: Russia toughens stance with Iran
Iran's "unprecedented attitude" leads to Bushehr delays
WNN: Iran defiant as UN imposes further sanctions