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Iran today began loading fuel rods into the core of its first nuclear power plant, saying the reactor in Bushehr would begin operation by January.
If confirmed, it would mark the end of long delays in bringing online the plant at the center of Iran’s nuclear power program. The last time Iran proclaimed it was ready to power up the Bushehr plant, in August, it sparked alarm that it could be used to create fuel for weapons, although the United States recently withdrew its opposition to the 1,000-megawatt plant.
The move comes as the European Union is pressuring Iran to hold talks on its nuclear program next month. The West accuses Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons, which Iran denies, saying the plant is only for civilian power. Nuclear fuel requires enrichment to 3.5 percent, while weapons grade fuel requires enrichment to 90 percent.
The progress at the nuclear reactor was reported by Iran’s state-run Press TV on Tuesday. The nuclear reactor would begin operating after all 163 fuel rods are inserted into the core, and is expected to begin generating electricity by early 2011, according to Press TV. Iran has declared plans to build 20 nuclear power plants in the next 20 years.
The New York Times reports that Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said the country had succeeded in its “peaceful nuclear activities” despite political pressure and sanctions. “The Bushehr power plant is a major project which will help us to take one step toward future alternative energy supplies,” he said. “We will also pursue our peaceful nuclear activities in other areas.”
Since June the UN, the EU, and the US have passed sanctions against Iran. On Friday, reported Reuters, EU Foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton urged Iran to conduct talks on Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna in November with United States, Russia, France, Britain, China, and Germany.
The Bushehr nuclear reactor has a long history of delays. Iran began building the plant in 1975, but its contract with Germany was derailed by the Islamic Revolution four years later. Iran inked a deal with Russia to finish the plant in 1995, but it was repeatedly delayed.
The latest delay was in August, when the fuel rods were delivered to the plant and scheduled to be loaded into the nuclear reactor. Many questioned if the delay came from the Stuxnet computer virus found on computers at the site, as The Christian Science Monitor reported. Iran denied the virus was the reason for the delay.
According to the Times, the US dropped opposition to the plant after Russia “provided assurances” that the spent fuel rods would not be used to create weapons-grade plutonium. The used fuel rods are supposed to be collected by Russian nuclear officials under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, reports Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The Times reports that it is unclear whether the IAEA is currently supervising the fuel loading as agreed.
Under its normal procedures, IAEA inspectors would oversee the final processes of fuel-loading and then seal the core of the reactor to prevent tampering. The reactor is also supposed to be kept under surveillance by closed circuit television cameras that would detect any movement of fuel.
The Bushehr reactor… is separate from Iran’s other operations at which it is seeking to enrich uranium. Iran says it wants the enrichment facilities to provide fuel for future reactor use and a for a medical research reactor. But the West and Israel suspect those programs are designed to produce weapons-grade fuel.
A powerful, 7.7-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami that pounded villages on remote islands off western Indonesia, killing at least 113 people and leaving scores more are missing.
The fault that ruptured Monday, running the length of the west coast of Sumatra island, also caused the 9.1-magnitude quake that unleashed a monster tsunami around the Indian Ocean in 2004, killing 230,000.
Some voters in Boulder City said they are concerned about fraud at the electronic ballot box. Voter Joyce Ferrara said when they went to vote for Republican Sharron Angle, her Democratic opponent, Sen. Harry Reid’s name was already checked.
Ferrara wasn’t alone in her voting experience. She said her husband and several others voting at the same time all had the same thing happen.
As Vivian Schiller explained to the NPR board of directors in 2009, it is public radio’s responsibility to fill the gap in journalism left by dying local television stations and newspapers.
The former New York Times executive is one of a few dozen power players working with the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and a leftist group called Free Press to “reinvent journalism.”
The Mount Merapi volcano in Indonesia erupted on Tuesday, forcing thousands of nearby residents to flee for thier lives, the Antara national news agency reported.
Mount Merapi, which looms on the horizon north of the major city of Yogyakarta, is one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes and lies in one of the world’s most densely populated areas.
Democrat Florida Gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink was caught reading crib notes from a mobile device during a break in a CNN debate in violation of rules to which she had agreed.
An aide who rushed on set ostensibly to apply makeup to Sink during a break also shoved a mobile phone with a text message under Sink’s nose, and Sink read the message although she knew it was prohibited.
A report from the Congressional Research Service casts doubt on the two main arguments used by the President to defend the individual insurance mandate that is the central component of Obamacare.
The CRS report examines the arguments both for and against the constitutionality of the individual mandate, which requires every American to purchase government-approved health insurance or else pay a fine.
A 10-year-old Chinese boy on Monday fell from the window of his family’s 20th floor apartment and miraculously survived by crashing through the rear windshield of a car.
Xinhua News reports a pillow in the backseat cushioned his head. The boy, who the news agency calls “Xiao Xiao,” fell from the apartment window onto the roof and rear windshield of a Citroën car in the Guiyang city.