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Iran's nuclear plant to come online late September

Testing and commissioning of Bushehr plant drawing to close.

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A guard stands in front of the controversial Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran.
A guard stands in front of the controversial Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran.

Iran is scheduling the definitive start-up of its Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant (NPP) in the country’s south-west for late September, as commissioning and final testing of the facility is drawing to a close.

"We reached the point of no return and the ground is paved for the reactor to go on stream," Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, was quoted by Reuters as saying, adding that "the last and some of the most important tests before going on stream”, including the warm-water tests, had been completed.

The 1,000-MW reactor will come online after years of delays as Iran has suffered cash-flow problems, although most of the delays have come from Russia using the project’s progress as a lever for diplomatic pressure towards Iran and in bargains with the United States—which has been highly critical of the project since its inception about 15 years ago, writes IHS Global Insight analyst Sam Ciszuk. The Bushehr NPP is, however, unrelated to Iran’s internationally criticised enrichment programme—with its alleged military connotations—as the facility will run on Russian-supplied nuclear fuel, which, when spent, will be collected and sent back to Russia for reprocessing in a closed fuel-cycle.

The facility will alleviate widespread Iranian power shortages, which come to bear at this time of the year as temperatures rise and increased air conditioning usage strains the power system’s capacity, although the absolute electricity and gas peak demand season in Iran takes place in the winter months of December to March.

Iran has failed to develop its gas reserves fast enough to meet domestic demand at the same time and increased sanctions are hitting its ability to gain the necessary technologies and production efficiency, while continued subsidies keep encouraging wasteful usage levels.
 

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