Bushehr I and II Nuclear, Iran

The 1,000MW Bushehr power plant in southern Iran was officially inaugurated in September 2011, nearly 38 years after Iran signed the original order. The plant is located near the town of Halileh, 12km from Bushehr.

The plant will be launched again with its full capacity in February 2012. As per an accord, ratified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Russia will operate the plant for two to three years. Russia is also required to supply fuel for the plant and take away all the spent fuel during the operational period.

Following a failed contract with Siemens, the contract eventually signed with Russia also experienced delays – reportedly from lack of financing and delayed equipment deliveries.

The project was finally carried out by Russian Atomstroyexport (ASE).

IRI Atomic Energy Production and Development Company received the nuclear fuel. Iran is now tendering to build 19 new 1,000MW nuclear power plants to meet commitments to generate 20,000MW of domestic electricity. The construction of six nuclear reactors including a reactor in Darkhoyen is expected to be completed by 2020.

Russian companies completed the project

The Shah of Iran in 1969 signed a contract with the French government to construct two nuclear power stations, but these were never completed. In 1974, Siemens started to build two 1,250MW pressurised water nuclear reactors at Bushehr in a contract worth $4–$6bn.

The Bushehr I and II reactors were nearly complete when the Iranian Revolution happened. The reactors were then seriously damaged during the Iran/Iraq war and, after US pressure, Siemens refused to complete the work.

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) in 1995 signed a $800m contract with the Russian Federation Ministry for Atomic Energy (Minatom) to complete Bushehr unit I. Minatom proposed a 1,000MW VVER-1000/320 light water reactor. It was the first of Iran’s nuclear power stations to be built by Russia.

VVER-1000/32 plant

“The plant integrates a leak-tight enclosure system (LES) for preventing the release of radiations into environment.”

The VVER-1000 was designed in the 1970s and 1980s. It was a third-generation VVER, and incorporated improved safety of operation over the VVER-440 Model V213 plants. It uses steel lined, pre-stressed, concrete containment. There are four coolant loops and horizontal steam generators, with redesigned fuel assemblies for better coolant flow.

The reactors were installed in the buildings intended for the Siemens ones, although the buildings themselves had to be extended. Minatom therefore had to deal with system design differences to fit the new equipment in the buildings. It also had to repair bomb damage and environmental exposure. The project hit further difficulties in February 2007 after complaints by Russia that Tehran had provided only 60% of the required funding.

Leningrad Metallurgy Plant assembled the main turbine components. Energoprogress was also a subcontractor. In 2003, the Russian Atomtekhenergo Novovoronezh trained over 500 Iranians in Russia and Bushehr.

The plant integrates a leak-tight enclosure system (LES) for preventing the release of radiation into environment and for protecting primary equipment installed in the plant. The strength and tightness of LES were tested, during February 2010, before the start of operations.

Nuclear fuel from Novosibirsk

Russia and Iran signed a ten-year contract in 1995 for Russia to supply nuclear fuel from Novosibirsk. Eighty two tons of fuel in eight shipments were received between December 2007 and January 2008. The lowly enriched U-235 fuel came in 163 canisters. They were inspected, sealed and delivered by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The VVER-1000 reactor will generate more than 180kg of plutonium each year, with the 1995 contract specifying it would be returned to Russia for reprocessing. Russia has proposed forming a uranium enrichment company in Russian territory.

Increased domestic demand

“Power consumption in Iran was around 36,500MW in the summer of 2007, and in that year the country added over 6,000MW of electrical power.”

Power consumption in Iran was around 36,500MW in the summer of 2007, and in that year the country added over 6,000MW of electrical power. It has invested in alternative energy sources like geothermal, wind, and solar power.

Hydroelectric power plants produce 1,150MW, and this will be increased when Masjed Soleiman Molla Sadra hydro plant comes on line. Non-governmental power plants contribute 680MW, but Iran is looking to triple that.

Total electricity consumption in 2009-10 was 169 billion kWh, an increase of 4.4% compared to 2008-09. Electricity generation in 2009-10 reached 222.3 billion kWh, of which just 7.8 billion kWh was generated by hydroelectric, diesel and wind power plants.

Iran has been accused of using nuclear power stations to enrich uranium for use in nuclear weapons, but claims that its intentions are peaceful. Indigenous Ahwazi Arabs have also condemned the construction on their traditional lands, pointing out that the plant is near an active earthquake fault line.