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Iran’s first nuclear power plant is now within weeks of operation, after engineers loaded fuel rods into a reactor at the Russian-built facility on Saturday. After years of delays, the plant is finally set to begin producing electricity by early September.
The activation of the plant is significant for Iran and a number of other international players, albeit for different reasons.
For Iran, which has long worked to establish what it says is a peaceful nuclear program, the day was looked upon as a major achievement toward providing cleaner energy. For those who’ve been suspiciously eyeing Iran’s nuclear program, worried that it’s a front to develop atomic weapons, the plant adds yet another layer of concern.
Although reports differ about whether the plant will pose a serious threat, it remains arguably the most contentious issue for Israel which fears a nuclear Iran would pose too great a threat to the Jewish nation. Following Iran’s announcement about the plant, Israeli Foreign Ministry officials called for the international community to apply more pressure on Iran to stop it from going nuclear, reports German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
Too late to safely bomb the plant?
Israeli hawks may now also worry that the time to safely bomb the plant without causing major civilian causalities has passed.
Former Bush administration hardliner John Bolton suggested last week that if Israel was going to bomb the Bushehr power facility, it would need to do so before the fuel rods were added or they would run the risk of “creating a radioactive cloud that would harm too many civilians,” reports the Los Angeles Times.
Still, the Israeli media has downplayed the threat of the Bushehr plant, with most reports emphasizing the tight international controls that will be in place there. Spent fuel rods that could be used to develop nuclear weapons will be collected by Russian nuclear officials under the supervision of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency, reports Israel’s Haaretz. The conservative Jerusalem Post also echoed Russian reassurances that dangerous nuclear materials would not fall into the Iranian military’s hands.
Iran issues warnings
Anticipating Israeli hostility toward the program, Iranian officials continued to issue grave warnings to Israel about how they would respond in the event of an attack on their nuclear facilities. In a report on Iran’s Press TV, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chief of national security and foreign policy in Iran’s Parliament, was quoted saying that Israel should “consider the issue very seriously” before taking any actions that could result in its "annihilation."
“Any military operation by the Zionist regime [Israel] against a nuclear facility of the Islamic Republic will definitely tantamount to the start of the regime's annihilation,” he said in a Press TV report.
Despite the saber rattling toward Israel, the mood in Iran is mostly celebratory as the plant prepares to go online. According to one report in the Tehran Times, the power plant will generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity, saving the country 11 million barrels of crude oil per year.
Officials also boasted that the completion of the plant puts them at least ten years ahead of their neighbors, like the United Arab Emirates who will not have nuclear power plants until at least 2020.