Iran proposes to produce nuclear fuel with Russia
Iran has submitted a proposal to Russia to jointly produce nuclear fuel for Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant and any future facilities built in the country, state media reported Thursday.
Iran's state-run, English-language Press TV quoted the head of Iran's atomic energy agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, as saying "we have made a proposal to Russia to create a consortium under Russian license to do part of the work in Russia and part in Iran."
Salehi, who is also Iran's vice president, said Moscow is "studying the proposal."
An official at the Russian nuclear agency said the two countries have discussed the possibility of creating a facility to assemble the fuel rods for Bushehr. The facility would operate under Russian license on Iranian territory.
But the official said the uranium enrichment would be performed on Russian soil. Speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, the official added that first Russia will focus on commissioning Iran's Russian-built nuclear plant at Bushehr, and then turn its attention to Iran's new proposal.
With Russian help, Iran began loading uranium fuel on Saturday into the Bushehr facility. The 1,000-megawatt plant - Iran's first - will pump electricity to the country's cities. Iran plans to build more such plants across the country.
The uranium fuel Russia has supplied for Bushehr is well below the more than 90 percent enrichment needed for a nuclear warhead. Iran is already producing its own uranium enriched to the Bushehr level - about 3.5 percent.
It also has started a pilot program of enriching uranium to 20 percent, which officials say is needed for a medical research reactor. Salehi said Thursday that Iran has produced some 25 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent so far.
The United States and other nations have tried to persuade Iran to stop enriching uranium over concerns that Tehran is seeking a pathway to produce nuclear weapons under the cover of its civil nuclear power program. Iran denies the charge, and says its program is peaceful.
The U.N. Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran in June over Tehran's refusal to stop enriching uranium, a process that can be used to produce fuel for power plants or, enriched to around 90 percent, for weapons-grade material for atomic weapons.
Associated Press writer Lena Yegorova in Moscow contributed to this report.