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Russia’s Fueling of Iranian Reactor Is Serious but no Cause for Panic

The real red line is not fueling the reactor but Russia’s delivery of anti-aircraft missiles to Iran.

by
Stephanie L. Freid

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August 17, 2010 - 12:00 am
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When Russia’s state atomic agency spokesperson announced plans to fuel an Iranian reactor this month, a wave of anxiety rippled through the mainstream media. Fueling the reactor, after all, is crucial to moving the reprobate state’s nuclear program toward an operational level.

Ratcheting up the tension even more were statements by former UN Ambassador John Bolton, who said that after the nuclear fuel was in place, Israel would be constrained from bombing the facility due to fallout from broken and exposed fuel rods. Bolton even suggested that the date that the Russians were going to fuel the reactor was a deadline of sorts. But Middle East expert and PJ Media contributor Barry Rubin dismisses the notion of an Israeli attack now and links to a piece by arms control expert Joshua Pollack, whose analysis shows why Israel has its own timetable and wouldn’t be deflected by such an event.

Experts say the announcement and subsequent fueling are significant events worthy of close scrutiny, but neither is cause for immediate panic.

“It’s highly symbolic,” American Foreign Policy Council Vice President Ilan Berman said from his D.C. office.

Iran has been trying to prove that they’re a de facto nuclear state for a long time and this bolsters their case for acceptance into the nuclear club.

Sergei Novikov, a spokesman for Rosatom Corp., told the press last week:

The fuel will be loaded on Aug 21. This is the start of the physical launch (of the reactor).

From that moment the Bushehr plant will be officially considered a nuclear-energy installation.

The United States asked Russia to delay the startup until Iran proves it’s not developing nuclear weapons, but Russian officials are sidestepping the request by saying Bushehr is a longstanding, contracted project agreement between Iran and Russia that won’t affect compliance with recently agreed upon UN and U.S. sanctions.

Behind the scenes, numerous elements come into play in this scenario. First, Iran is striving for both nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. Bushehr, fueled by plutonium rather than uranium, is believed to fall into the latter category. So if there is no international outcry over fueling Bushehr — which there probably won’t be due to the fact that the facility is not a cornerstone of Iran’s nuclear program — the future question is: “if we get sacked for one, why not for the other?”

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