May 12, 2011 | Daily Star

Iran Gets Another Nuclear Fuel Batch from Russia

TEHRAN: Iran has received another shipment of nuclear fuel from Russia for use at its Bushehr nuclear plant, the Arabic-language Al-Alam channel quoted an official as saying Wednesday.

“The shipments were transferred to Iran from Russia by plane in three phases on May 4, 8 and 10,” the spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Hamid Khadem Ghaemi told Al-Alam state channel. He said 30 tones of fuel had been received.
Russia delivered the first batch of about 80 tons of uranium fuel rods to Iran in 2008 as part of international efforts to persuade Tehran to halt its uranium enrichment program.

The $1 billion Bushehr plant, which was built by Russia, is the Islamic state’s first and only nuclear power plant. Russia says the Bushehr project is being built under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog.

The U.S. and allies say they believe Iran’s uranium enrichment and other nuclear activities are aimed at building weapons. Iran says it needs nuclear fuel purely to produce energy.

Bushehr has for years caused friction between Russia and Western powers pressing for restrictions on economic cooperation with Iran.

Tehran plans to build 19 new 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plants in the Islamic Republic to meet the country’s growing electricity demand.

International and U.N. sanctions have been imposed on Iran for its refusal to halt enrichment.

Meanwhile, the EU said Wednesday that Iran’s response to the bloc’s efforts to revive talks on Tehran’s nuclear program contains nothing new and does not appear to justify another meeting, the bloc said Wednesday.

“On its own, Mr. Jalili’s letter does not contain anything new and does not seem to justify a further meeting,” said Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, referring to Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili.

“We are surprised to hear the Iranians talking about meetings. They have not been in touch with us with any proposals,” she said. “We will be in touch with the Iranians with the aim of creating the basis to renew dialogue.”

Negotiations with Iran in Istanbul in January failed after Tehran rejected any notion of suspending uranium enrichment in exchange for trade and technology benefits, as called for by several U.N. Security Council resolutions passed since 2006.

In March, the six world powers that have taken part in the talks with Iran said “the door remains open” for dialogue but made clear Tehran must engage in good-faith negotiations to solve the eight-year dispute.

Jalili, responded Tuesday to a letter sent by Ashton three months ago aimed at getting Iran to commit to new talks on the issue.

He said the talks should be just and “refrain from resorting to pressure instruments,” something analysts said indicated Tehran would stick to its refusal to address its uranium enrichment drive.

In addition, Iran is continuing to use front companies and other concealment methods to circumvent U.N. sanctions but the bans have succeeded in slowing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, according to a report by U.N. experts obtained Tuesday by the Associated Press.

The expert panel said sanctions have made it harder, costlier and riskier for Iran to acquire items needed for its banned nuclear and missile activities.

In the report, the panel said the Revolutionary Guards’ influence on decision-making on nuclear and ballistic missile programs “is regarded as increasing through its growing political, economic and social power.”

Elements of the Revolutionary Guards, known as the IRGC, are engaged in a wide range of prohibited activities, including acquiring material and technology for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, smuggling banned material and weapons, and establishing front companies to evade sanctions, it said.