Saturday, August 21, 2010

Iran's first nuclear reactor caps decades of living dangerously

What in the world is the West going to do about Iran? News that Iran had started loading fuel into its first nuclear power plant in Bushehr is a reminder of the limits of muscular foreign policy. Decades of confrontation with Tehran, including economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation, have served only to get us where we are now: less control over events combined with deepening mistrust and growing animosity. "Despite all the pressures, sanctions and hardships imposed by Western nations, we are now witnessing the start-up of the largest symbol of Iran's peaceful nuclear activities," Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi told a news conference on Iranian television as technicians prepared a fuel rod assembly at the plant, according to the Reuters international news service. Iran completed the plant with the help of Rosatom, Russia's state nuclear corporation, over the objections of the United States. But a U.S. State Department spokesman said Washington did not consider the Bushehr reactor to be a proliferation threat because Russia would be providing fuel and taking back spent fuel rods for reprocessing. "Russia's support for Bushehr underscores that Iran does not need an indigenous enrichment capability if its intentions are purely peaceful," spokesman Darby Holladay told Reuters. Russia backed a U.N. Security Council resolution in June that imposed a fourth round of economic sanctions on Iran to discourage Tehran from trying to develop nuclear weaponry. Construction of the reactor at Bushehr was started in the 1970s, before the Islamic revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran and started what has now been more than 30 years of animosity between Tehran and Washington.

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