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Iran says nuclear reactor is nearly ready to go online

(JTA) — Iran’s first nuclear power reactor will go online in late January, the head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization said.

The loading of 163 fuel rods into the Bushehr reactor is complete, Ali Akbar Salehi said Saturday, according to Iranian state media outlets.

The water inside the reactor’s core needs time to gradually warm up, after which several tests will be carried out, Salehi reportedly said.

Fueling of the reactor was delayed in recent months by what Iran called a small leak in a storage pool and not by the Stuxnet computer worm, which allegedly was designed to sabatoge Iran’s nuclear power program, as is widely believed.

The nuclear reactor is a joint project with Russia and has cost upward of $1 billion. Progress has been delayed on the plant at least five times in the past 15 years.

Construction of the plant had begun in 1975 under a contract with Germany, which pulled out following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Russia took over the contract in 1992.

Iran is under U.S. and international sanctions because of its nuclear program, which Iran says will be used to produce electricity and which the West believes could be used to produce nuclear weapons.
 

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