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Returning spent nuclear fuel to Russia from Iran envisaged in agreements — Rosatom

April 03, 2015, 19:44 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Regarding fuel for the first power unit of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, an inter-governmental protocol was signed in 2005, outlining return of spent nuclear fuel to Russia for further reprocessing
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Bushehr NPP

Bushehr NPP

© ITAR-TASS/EPA

MOSCOW, April 3. /TASS/. Returning spent nuclear fuel from Iranian nuclear reactors to Russia is envisaged in agreements between Russian state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom and Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, a spokesman for Rosatom told TASS on Friday, commenting on the deal reached in Lausanne on Tehran’s nuclear program.

On April 2, Iran and P5+1 group (Russia, US, UK, China, France and Germany) reached a breakthrough agreement in Switzerland’s Lausanne on restricting Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for gradual lifting of sanctions. The deadline for coordinating the final agreement is June 30.

According to the deal, Iran will not enrich uranium no higher than to 3.67% for the next 15 years. Tehran will also cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium from around 10 tons to 300 kilograms. Iran agreed not to set up new facilities for uranium enrichment in the next 15 years, and vowed not to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and conduct research in this sphere.

"Concerning fuel for the first power unit for the Bushehr nuclear power plant, an inter-governmental protocol was signed in 2005, outlining [the mechanism of] returning spent nuclear fuel to Russia for further reprocessing," a Rosatom spokesman told TASS.

This protocol eased concerns of nuclear physicists about the peaceful nature of the Bushehr project, he added.

"The thing is that certain amount of plutonium is derived in the process of operating nuclear fuel in fuel assemblies. If the spent fuel stayed on the Iranian territory, Iranian specialists could possibly develop a technology for deriving it [plutonium], which was exactly what worried international experts 10 years ago. After a protocol was signed, all worries were gone," the spokesman noted.

Russia to build nuclear power units in Iran

In November last year, Russia and Iran signed a package of agreements in Moscow to build eight nuclear power units in Iran.

Russia will also produce nuclear fuel for Iranian nuclear power plants during the whole service life of the eight new power units. Spent nuclear fuel will be also returned to Russia for reprocessing and storage.

In particular, a contract signed to build the second line of nuclear power plant Bushehr, envisages the construction of two nuclear power units with possible expansion to four power units.

The two countries plan in the just-signed agreements to build four more nuclear power units at other sites which are not determined yet.

Iran's first NPP

The Bushehr first unit was put into operation in 2011. This was one of the most difficult projects in the history because the construction started in 1974 and ended in 1980.

Twelve years later Russia and Iran agreed to resume the activities. It took 14 years to build the plant.

The Bushehr nuclear power has never been targeted by any international sanctions. The plant is being built under the control of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). In compliance with the supplements to the 1992 agreement, Iran was obliged to return spent nuclear fuel back to Russia.

Iran sits astride several major fault lines and is prone to frequent earthquakes, some of which have been devastating.

On April 9, a 6.1-magnitude quake rocked the south of Iran, with an epicenter around 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Bushehr.

Western concerns also include Iranian engineers’ ability to run a power plant constructed of components from three different sources — German, Russian and domestic.

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