Iran resumes operations at Bushehr nuclear power plant

Activities at the plant had to be suspended ten days ago due to "a technical failure"
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AFP/ ATTA KENARE  -   A photo taken on November 10, 2019 shows an Iranian flag at the Bushehr nuclear power plant

Iran has announced that it has reconnected the country's only nuclear power plant, located in Bushehr, to the grid at a crucial time when the Islamic Republic is facing rolling blackouts and power supply shortages that the authorities blame on increased demand for electricity during "a hot and dry summer".

Activities at this nuclear power plant had to be suspended ten days ago due to "a technical failure" paralysing its operation for the first time since it was commissioned in 2011. The deputy director of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation (IAEA), Mahmud Jafari, told the Iranian news agency Isna that "the technical defect [at the plant] has been resolved" and "electricity production resumed on Sunday".

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PHOTO / REUTERS - Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran technicians in a control room at the Uranium Conversion Facility in Isfahan, Iran

For his part, Iranian Energy Ministry spokesman for the energy industry Mostafa Rajabi Mashhadi said that "the Bushehr nuclear power plant, like other thermal power plants, needs repairs and the elimination of technical problems after it has been operating for a while". He added that "the Bushehr plant is back online after the necessary maintenance work has been completed" and "1,000 MW of the [power] capacity of the plant, which was offline for about 11 days, is injected into the country's distribution network".

The Bushehr nuclear power plant, located in the southeast of the country, was built with Russian assistance. According to PressTV, Iran and Russia signed a series of documents in November 2014, expanding cooperation in the field of peaceful use of atomic energy and opening up the possibility of building up to eight power units in the Persian country. Moscow has been one of Tehran's main energy allies in the face of international sanctions; indeed, Russia currently supplies the nuclear fuel used at Bushehr.

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AFP/ ATTA KENARE - Iran's President-elect Ebrahim Raisi holds his first press conference in the capital Tehran on 21 June 2021

Bushehr is fuelled by Russian-produced uranium that offers a capacity of 1,000 megawatts and helps feed enough energy into the grid for a small part of Iran's 64,000 megawatts of domestic consumption. Several media reports have indicated that there could be disputes between the Kremlin and Iran over the joint Bushehr nuclear power plant project that could eventually affect the Vienna talks for a return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

However, Russia's permanent representative to international organisations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, told Sputnik News that any issues between Iran and Russia cannot influence the Vienna negotiations. The talks in Vienna are at a key moment to resume the 2015 nuclear deal or as it is officially known Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The different countries involved agree on reaching an agreement before August, when the ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raisi will be sworn in as the new president of the Islamic Republic after the elections of 18 June.

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PHOTO/EU DELEGATION IN VIENNA - The Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Enrique Mora, and the Iranian deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abbas Araghchi

ElUS Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has already said that the country's return to the 2015 nuclear deal could be "very difficult" if Iran maintains its non-compliance and the talks in the Austrian capital drag on. There are still many hurdles that both the US and the Islamic Republic have to overcome to return to the 2015 nuclear deal. While Iran is demanding the lifting of all economic sanctions, the US is demanding that Iran comply with its obligations regarding its nuclear energy programme.