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Iran Ready To Pay 500 Million Euro Debt To Russia For Nuclear Reactor

The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi said Saturday that the country's only nuclear power plant in Bushehr which shut down temporarily last week due to "technical issues" will soon restart operation.

In a meeting held on Saturday afternoon with the deputy speaker of the parliament Ali Nikzad and other parliamentarians to discuss nuclear power generation capacities, Salehi said the problem has almost been fixed and electricity generated by the power plant will enter the grid within two or three days.

The AEOI said in a statement on June 20 that the Bushehr nuclear power plant had been temporarily shut down over a "technical fault" and went off the grid after a one-day notice to the Energy Ministry.

When the news of the shutdown emerged, some wondered if it had something to do with Russia withholding fuel or crucial technical support for the reactor. This suspicion gained more traction when Salehi also announced on Saturday that Iran will pay 500 million euros it owes Russia.

This is the first time that an emergency shutdown of the plant located in the southern port city of Bushehr has been reported. The cause of the problem has not been specified.

Speaking to the parliament's news website, Khane-ye Mellat on Saturday, Salehi downplayed the seriousness of an emergency shutdown and said such problems in power plants was "natural".

But Iran's nuclear chief also said on Saturday that because of US sanctions imposed after Donald Trump withdrew unilaterally from the 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, Iran has not been able to pay Russia 500 million euros it owes for two other power plants under construction and the fuel for the Bushehr power plant.

Blaming "financial issues" for not being able to reach the target of 8,000 MWs of nuclear-generated electricity, Salehi said Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has always emphasized that the AEOI should plan for 20,000 and even 30,000 megawatts fuel cycles and the parliament has recommended it to prepare for generating 20,000 megawatts of nuclear power. The current reactor in Bushehr generates just 1,000 megawatts which is a small portion of more than 60,000 megawatts Iran consumes on daily basis.

Nevertheless, an official of Tavanir, Iran's power generation and distribution company, warned last week that the shutdown of the Bushehr reactor could cause further outages in the country. Gholamali Rakhshani-Mehr said on June 20 that Iran is producing 60,000 megawatts of electricity per day, but the level of consumption now amounts to 62,000 megawatts.

Iran has been grappling with daily power cuts due to higher summer consumption. Officials also blame high power consumption by cryptocurrency miners and a wastage of over 10 percent resulting from insufficient resources to maintain the infrastructures for the widespread outages across the country.

The reactor in Bushehr was completed by Russia and went online in 2011. On Saturday, Salehi also said the Bushehr power plant will run out of fuel in the next two or three months. Fuel for the Bushehr reactor is provided by Russia under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). According to Salehi the fuel for Bushehr costs $30 to $40 million a year.

A British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National and journalist at Iran International
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