Moscow and Tehran have announced that the nuclear reactor Russia is building Iran at Bushehr – its first – has completed all its test-runs and will be up and running in early September – ahead of schedule.
debkafile's military sources reported several times in recent months that the Iranian reactor at Bushehr is not just a power plant but also has military applications. Chief among them is the reuse of its fuel rods to produce plutonium as atomic weapon fuel.
Wednesday, July 7, Ali Akbar Salehi, chairman of the Iranian Atomic Energy Commission, said: "Today we passed the hot water test, one of the Bushehr power plant's most important and final tests before its inauguration."
He admitted UN, US and European sanctions would slow the pace of the Iranian nuclear program – but not affect the activation of the Bushehr reactor.
Thursday, July 8, Atomstroyexport, the Russian company building the Iranian reactor, confirmed this: "Efficiency tests of the reactor equipment and supporting technological systems were held," said the firm's spokesman in Moscow. "We finished the so-called hot operational testing that was the final stage before launch."
The Russian company did not mention when the reactor would go on stream, but back on March 18, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said at a summit of senior Russian officials in southern Russia: "The first reactor at Iran's nuclear power plant in Bushehr is to be launched already in the summer."
Since he made this remark while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Moscow, it was taken as a Russian signal to Washington that while willing to support expanded UN sanctions, Russia had no intention of abandoning its nuclear cooperation with Tehran.
Clinton's response was: "In the absence of those reassurances (from Iran regarding the nature of its nuclear program), we (the Americans) think it would be premature to go forward with any project at this time."
And indeed, on June 9, Russia voted with 11 UN Security Council members in favor of the US motion to expand sanctions against Iran for failing to comply with international obligations on its nuclear program.
At the same time, Moscow remained opposed to unilateral sanctions outside the world body.
This was stated by special emissary to Tehran, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, after the European Union and the United States imposed their own sanctions, including President Barack Obama's signature on an embargo on refined fuel products and a ban on business with Iranian banks.
Thursday, July 8, Moscow then leaned further in Tehran's favor, calling for the world powers to consider Iran's proposals for a compromise on their nuclear controversy, not just their own, when negotiations are resumed.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that the negotiations can only begin in September.
It would therefore seem that the concatenation of the two events – diplomacy and the launching of the Bushehr reactor – points to Russia's new emphasis on improving its relations with Iran and willingness to take its side in the forthcoming nuclear dialogue.