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News | Reports: First Iran-Made Nuclear Fuel Rod Successfully Tested

02 Jan 2012 06:00Comments

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Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30

8:30 a.m., 12 Dey/January 2 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi provides an update on the report that Iran has completed the first successful test of a nuclear fuel rod produced within the country:

ISNA, the Iranian Students News Agency, reported that the fabricated fuel rod contains natural uranium: "The fuel rod has so far been radiated for 1500 MW hours, has successfully passed the preliminary neutron test for the level of its radioactivity, as well as the test for non-deposition of nuclear materials in the reactor at several different strengths, and is currently in the core of the Tehran Research Reactor [TRR] and is being radiated for long-term tests."

The announcement implies that Iran has overcome two important hurdles in its pursuit of the ability to produce its own nuclear fuel: removing the contaminants from the fuel materials, as well as manufacturing the fuel rods. Given sufficient natural uranium resources, Iran will be able to produce fuel for the TRR, the full-scale Bushehr reactor, and a reactor with a capacity of about one third of Bushehr's that Iran intends to construct at Darkhovin in the province of Khuzestan, which is now in the design stage.

Meanwhile, in a speech on Saturday to members of the Iranian diplomatic corps, Saeed Jalili, the country's chief nuclear negotiator and secretary-general of the Supreme National Security Council, said that Iran has informed the 5+1 group -- the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany -- that it is ready to resume nuclear negotiations.

6 a.m., 12 Dey/January 2 According to a statement on the website of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and state media reports, Iran has produced its first nuclear fuel rod. The rod -- which contains the pellets of enriched uranium that constitute a nuclear reactor's fuel -- was reportedly loaded into the core of the Tehran Nuclear Reactor in a successful test. According to the Tehran Times, Iran will now likely move forward to

convert fuel rods into fuel plates to power the Tehran research reactor, which produces radioisotopes for cancer treatment.

Iran has constructed an advanced plant at the Isfahan nuclear facility for manufacturing nuclear fuel plates. With the construction of the plant, Iran is now among the few countries that can manufacture both nuclear fuel rods and plates.

The nuclear plant for converting enriched nuclear fuel into fuel rods was inaugurated in Isfahan in early spring 2009.

Iranian officials had previously said that the technology for producing nuclear fuel plates does not differ greatly from the technology for producing nuclear fuel rods.

An Associated Press report on the story described the rod's production as "another step" in the development of Iran's nuclear capabilities

despite United Nations sanctions and measures by the United States and others to stop the nation's atomic work and shut down any possible pathways to weapons production. Iran has long said it is forced to seek a way to manufacture the fuel rods on its own, since the sanctions ban it from buying them on foreign markets.

Another Tehran Times item declared, "This great achievement will perplex the West."

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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