JERUSALEM (JTA) — Iran says it is removing the nuclear fuel from its Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant.
Iran told atomic inspectors from the United Nations nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency last week that the plant had a serious problem, The New York Times reported Feb. 25.
The newly completed nuclear reactor was supposed to soon start generating electricity for the national grid.
"Based on the recommendation of Russia, which is in charge of completing the Bushehr atomic power plant, the fuel inside the reactor core will be taken out for a while to conduct some experiments and technical work," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s representative to the IAEA, told the Iranian ISNA news agency.
Iran had started loading the fuel into the reactor in October.
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.
The computer worm Stuxnet, which some say has set back Iran’s nuclear program by several months or years, and which The New York Times reported was a joint project between Israel and the United States, had nothing to do with the problem, Iranian officials have said, according to reports.