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Iran prepares to launch first nuclear reactor at Bushehr

The country’s atomic energy chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said they were preparing to transfer the fuel inside the Bushehr power station in southern Iran next week before transferring it to the reactor core. Mr Salehi added that Iran had invited inspectors from the Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to attend the launch ceremony. The rest of the Russia-supplied fuel will be transferred to the core on September 5, Mr Salehi said, according to Mehr news agency. In Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the fact that Russia was “providing the fuel, and taking the fuel back out” for reprocessing shows that “Iran doesn’t need its own enrichment capabilities.” Mr Salehi’s comments on Friday came soon after Russian atomic agency Rosatom said the Bushehr plant would be formally launched in just over a week’s time. “The fuel will be charged in the reactor on August 21. From this moment, Bushehr will be considered a nuclear installation,” Rosatom spokesman Sergei Novikov said. “This can be considered as the physical launch.” Russia has been building the plant since the mid-1990s but the project was marred by delays, and the issue is hugely sensitive amid Tehran’s standoff with the West and Israel over its nuclear ambitions. The UN Security Council hit Tehran with a fourth set of sanctions on June 9 over its nuclear programme, and the United States and European Union followed up with tougher punitive measures targeting Iran’s banking and energy sectors.

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