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Electricity generation in Iran

Nuclear power

Iran continues to develop its nuclear program to generate electricity. Its first nuclear power plant of 1,000 MW is to be built at Bushehr with Russian assistance and operations are planned to begin in 2010. Russia is also providing fuel under an agreement signed in early 2005.

The construction of a PWR started during the 1970s but was terminated because of the political changes in Iran.

Mix of energy generation (2006)

  • ~ 90% thermal electric power
  • ~ 10% hydroelectric power

Iran ranks among the world’s top three holders of both proven oil and natural gas reserves. Iran is OPEC’s second-largest producer and exporter after Saudi Arabia, and is the fourth-largest exporter of crude oil globally.

Natural gas accounts for half of Iran’s total domestic energy consumption, while the remaining half is predominately oil consumption.

Iran seeks to increase its installed capacity by roughly 10 percent annually, keeping in line with its projected 7-9 percent annual demand growth.

Developments in the nuclear sector

Sept 4th 2011: Busher nuclear power plant connected to grid

"TEHRAN – The Bushehr nuclear power plant was connected to the national grid on Saturday night, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran announced.

At 23:29 local time, the plant with a capacity of 60 megawatts, was connected to the national grid, the AEOI said.

The official ceremony for the launch of the plant will be held on September 12.

The IAEO officials had previously said the plant will reach 100 percent of its capacity within three months and produce 1000 megawatts of electricity.

When the 1000-megawatt plant reaches its optimal capacity, it will generate one-fortieth of the electricity output of the country.

The power plant first was launched in August 2010 as engineers loaded 163 fuel rods into the reactor under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The plant is located near the port city of Bushehr on the coast of the Persian Gulf.

Over the next 20 years, Iran plans to build enough nuclear power plants to generate 20,000 megawatts of electricity.

The launch of Iran’s first nuclear is a disappointment for the United States and Israel, which claim the Islamic Republic is using its civilian nuclear energy program as a cover for a nuclear weapons program.

However, the UN nuclear watchdog has conducted numerous inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities and has never found evidence of diversion.

Russia completed the Bushehr plant despite pressure from the United States and Israel. The plant will be operated by Russian and Iranian technicians for several years."
(source:, distributed by no sortir du nucléaire)

2010, Feb 16: Testing of LES in Bushehr completed

Testing of the leak-tight enclosure system at Iran's new Bushehr nuclear power plant has been completed, the reactor's Russian builder AtomStroyExport has announced.

The strength and tightness of the enclosure system were tested as the reactor is prepared for hot testing on its way towards start up. The leak-tight enclosure system (LES) is a confining system that would prevent the release of radiation into the environment in the event of any failure in the primary circuit, as well as protecting primary equipment from external impacts.

Erecting and testing the LES at Bushehr was a first for the Russian company. Unlike Russian nuclear power plants, which use a reinforced concrete structure lined with steel sheets to provide the LES, Bushehr's LES comprises a protective shell made of a steel sphere 56 metres in diameter. This difference between Russian VVERs and Bushehr is part of the legacy of the Iranian reactor's inception as a German-designed plant on which work started in the 1970s. Russian contractors undertook to complete the first unit at the plant as a VVER-1000 reactor in 1994, some 15 years after work on the original Siemens KWU plant had been abandoned, integrating the Russian reactor design with existing infrastructure.

Hydraulic testing of the secondary circuit at Bushehr reactor was completed in January. According to AtomStroyExport, the plant's primary circuit has already been hydraulically tested up to 250 kg/cm2, 40% above normal operating pressure. The testing has confirmed that main and auxiliary equipment in the two circuits are functioning efficiently within plant design parameters.

The Bushehr VVER was originally scheduled to begin operation in late 2006 but the project has been beset with delays. Iranian plans now call for the plant to be operational by the end of March 2010. The Bushehr nuclear power plant will be operated by a Russian-Iranian joint venture during its first year of operation.

The Bushehr project stands outside the ongoing international concerns over Iran's uranium enrichment program. The reactor has been constructed and will operate under full International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, using Russian-supplied nuclear fuel that will be returned to Russia after use."


2010, Feb: Higher enrichment of uranium for research reactor

"Iranian engineers may begin to enrich uranium to a higher level in order to refuel an important research reactor in Teheran.

Reportedly, Iran was to notify the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the plan today but an agency spokesperson told World Nuclear News it had "no information" on the matter and "cannot confirm anything."

In theory at least the effort would take Iran closer to self sufficiency in refuelling the Tehran research reactor, which produces isotopes for medical imaging procedures but will have to shut down without fresh fuel. However, Iran does not have the capability to actually manufacture new fuel elements even if could produce the main ingredient of sufficiently enriched uranium oxide.

Enrichment levels up to 20% are classified as 'low-enriched', and Iran already has about 1800 kilograms of uranium at less than 5% - the level required for a power reactor. However, the increase in enrichment within this category worries some observers that Iran may be ultimately aiming to reach weapons-usable levels of around 90%. All current stocks are under IAEA safeguards and so could not be diverted or further enriched without knowledge of the UN Security Council.

According to the Institute for Science and International Security, the Tehran research reactor was supplied and fuelled with 93% enriched uranium by the USA during the late 1960s. Argentine specialists converted it to use low-enriched fuel in the late 1980s but some irradiated original fuel remains in Iran.

The statement from Ahmadinejad is the latest move in a game of brinkmanship between Iran and the international community as led by the 5+1 group of China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and USA. A previous plan to supply new research reactor fuel relying on Russian enrichment and French manufacture was rejected by Iran, which then tabled a revised version. At issue was the amount of Iran's uranium stockpile to be handed over at one time: The P5+1 wanted to do the job in one large shipment while Iran preferred several smaller swaps which maintained more of its overall holding for a longer time period.

Iran's reaction to the original plan is sadly in line with a recently published US intelligence report that concluded the country was "keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons." The 2010 Annual Threat Assessment said "Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons, making the central issue its political will to do so.""

2009, Nov: Ten new enrichment plants announced

The situation surrounding Iran's nuclear program grew dramatically more tense after the country reacted to a new resolution by announcing ten new enrichment plants.

A vote on 27 November by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors resulted in a new resolution expressing "serious concern" over Iran's breach of its obligations in not notifying the agency of the Fordow uranium enrichment facility under construction near Qom.

This failure has caused the 29-member board of governors to wonder if there are any more undeclared nuclear facilities under development in Iran. And this comes on top of a longstanding defiance of IAEA and Security Council resolutions to cease uranium enrichment work. Furthermore, the resolution complains that Iran must re-establish proper cooperation with the IAEA and answer questions over apparent military programs.

Leading in drafting the resolution was the '5+1' group of China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and USA. One part called on Iran to confirm it has not decided on any other nuclear facility as yet undeclared. The ironic response from Iran was to announce a huge boost to its nuclear program with ten new facilities.

According to state media these new uranium enrichment plants are to be built in the "hearts of mountains... In a safe place that cannot be threatened by any kind of attack." The head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, Ali-Akbar Salehi, continued to say that five locations have already been decided.

UK foreign secretary David Miliband called the announcement a provocation, adding that "This epitomises the fundamental problem that we face with Iran. We have stated over and over again that we recognise Iran's right to a civilian nuclear program, but they must restore international confidence in their intentions."

Iran has always maintained that its uranium enrichment work is meant to produce reactor fuel for its forthcoming nuclear power program. However, a secret start to the work immediately raised concern on discovery in 2003 and the Bushehr reactor is to be fuelled by its Russian suppliers, negating any need for domestic supply.

A certain uranium enrichment capability already operates at Natanz and this would be doubled with the completion of Fordow. While IAEA safeguards at both of these ensures that no material is diverted for military use, the agency has said it cannot provide assurance of the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's program without full cooperation.

After years of mistrust, the international community would not be expected to tolerate a profusion of underground enrichment facilities in Iran. Meanwhile, the nation could at any time withdraw from the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty and expel IAEA inspectors.

The plan to refuel a research reactor in Tehran remains a major opportunity for negotiation. The deal on offer means taking a large part of Iran's low-enriched uranium stockpile from the country, perhaps via Turkey, for further enrichment and manufacture in Russia and France. Iran is stalling, and requesting a simultaneous swap of finished fuel for the equivalent stocks of its own.

US officials said Iran was refusing any meeting on the research reactor fuel if the wider nuclear program was on the agenda. They said the 5+1 was preparing a "package of consequences" for Iran if it did not begin to engage positively before the end of the year, "at a point at which we've made clear judgements need to be made.""


2009, Aug: Iran allows IAEA to visit research reactor

"Inspectors have been allowed to visit the IR-40 heavy water research reactor for the first time in a year as Western relations with Iran appear to be picking up.

The renewed access relieves one of the significant stresses between the international community and Iran, which is working hard in pursuit of indigenously nuclear fuel cycle capabilities.

Iran had been refusing to allow IAEA experts to verify that IR-40 was being built according to announced plans. This was not in breach of in breach of the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) because no nuclear materials were yet on site, but it did violate the Additional Protocol to the NPT that extends access for this kind of purpose.

Denied visits, inspectors had to rely on checks made using satellite imagery, but the IAEA was essentially unable to verify anything after the concrete containment building was complete. Officials in Vienna confirmed the reinstatement of access to World Nuclear News today.

At the same time, an agreement has been reached on a method to maintain continuity of safeguards knowledge at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant. The simultaneous operation and construction of the plant had required certain changes in the IAEA's approach to implementing the safeguards that ensure civil-use nuclear materials cannot be diverted to the military or elsewhere. The IAEA had noted the need for a change in approach in its June report, and an updated regime is now in place.

Other problems still remain, most significantly the unanswered questions concerning documents which appear to show research programs covering precision high explosives testing, underground testing arrangements and a missile re-entry vehicle.

Last year a package of incentives was presented to Iran as a 'last chance' by China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and USA as well as the European Union, but it now looks as though fresh talks could be possible. US President Barack Obama has called for direct diplomacy and Iranian officials are saying they want to talk about a range of regional issues."

2003, May: Russian minister sees no reason against NPP in Iran

The Russian minister of atomic energy, told Tass. that there is no reason to halt ongoing construction of a first reactor for the nuclear power plant in Iran. He said the "Ministry of Atomic Energy closely follows the implementation of the nuclear program of Iran where Russian specialists are assembling the first power-generating set of the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant."
What is being built by Russian specialists in Iran has already been placed under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the Iranian side has made assurances that it intends to place under the IAEA supervision the test installation for isotope enrichment in the city of Natanj as soon as nuclear materials are delivered there.

The minister said that the next session of the IAEA Board of Governors will be held at the IAEA central office in Vienna from June 16 to June 20 and the question of Iran's nuclear program will be one of the items discussed.

In May 2003 Iran put up a serious challenge to the US, inviting American companies to partake in the country's nuclear program if Washington had serious qualms about Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
"I don't think America is worried about Iran's nuclear programs; if they are, we invite them to come and participate in these programs and construct the facilities," Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi told reporters during a weekly briefing, IRNA reported.
Washington has turned up the heat against Tehran in recent weeks, accusing Iran of pursuing an aggressive nuclear program and hiding suspected al-Qaeda elements.
The Iranian official renewed Tehran's preconditions for joining the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iran is a party, asking western companies to lift their sanctions against the country's nuclear programs.
"The Additional Protocol is a separate issue. It must be confirmed first how the sanctions have affected us while we are a member of the NPT. They ( the western countries) must help us achieve the nuclear know-how instead of putting restrictions," Asefi said.

2003, February: Iran determined to develop nuclear technology

President Mohammad Khatami said today that Iran was determined to develop nuclear technology, but he reiterated that it would be for peaceful purposes.

The United States have put increasing pressure on Iran over the issue, accusing Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons. Mr. Khatami said Iran had begun mining uranium near the city of Yazd, in central Iran, and that the country had acquired the knowledge to prepare the ore for use in civilian power plants.

He added that Iran was planning to build two plants in the cities of Isfahan, in central Iran, and Kashan, south of Teheran for processing the uranium to provide fuel for generating electricity.

Russia has helped Iran to complete a 1,000 MW nuclear power plant in the southern city of Bushehr, which is expected to begin operating by the end of 2003.

The United States has raised concerns about the Bushehr power plant and about newly disclosed plans for two other nuclear plants.

An Iranian dissident group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, said in August that it had learned from sources within Iran about two secret nuclear sites under construction. One, about 25 miles south east of the city of Kashan, was to be used for nuclear fuel production, the council said. It said the site included two large spaces that are 25 feet underground. A facility meant to produce heavy water was along a river near the central city of Arak, the council said.

Iran has large oil and gas reserves, and the United States argues that Iran has no need to develop nuclear energy.

However, Iran has rejected claims that it is trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. It contends that nuclear plants are needed to help increase its electricity generation by 6,000 megawatts over the next 20 years.

Mr. Khatami emphasized that Iran had cooperated with the IAEA and "welcomed international supervision to dispel the lies being fabricated against Iran."

The director general of the atomic energy agency, Mohamed El Baradei, is expected to visit Iran on Feb. 25 to inspect sites to make sure they are part of the "civilian fuel cycle."

2002, Jan: IAEA mission because of planned conversion plant

The IAEA wants to learn more about a planned conversion facility in Iran. An IAEA mission will be in Iran at the end of February. They will discuss with Iranian officials the plan to produce uranium hexafluoride (UF6) in a conversion plant near Esfahan.

Sites With Nuclear Facilities

siteplantreactor typconstruction startoperation startshut down
BusherBusher-1VVER V-44619752011
Busher-2PWR 12001976