The Russian government has announced it will load nuclear fuel into Iran's nuclear power plant in the southern Iranian port of Bushehr.
Moscow has been helping Iran construct the nuclear power plant for more than a dozen years, and was contracted to provide Iran with the low enriched uranium the reactor requires to produce electricity. Because of proliferation concerns, Russia has agreed that it will take back the spent fuel from the plant. Iran says that the power plant, which will be under International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, safeguards, will become operational in the near future.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs noted that the arrangement Tehran has made with Russia removes the justification Iran has cited for its uranium enrichment program, an activity which violates multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions:
"Russia is providing the fuel and taking the spent fuel back out of the country. It quite clearly, I think, underscores that Iran does not need its own uranium enrichment capability if its intentions, as it states, are for a peaceful nuclear program."
Since June, Iran has faced a fourth round of UN Security Council sanctions, as well as a series of additional penalties from a growing number of countries because of its failure to halt all enrichment, reprocessing, and heavy water-related activities, and to fully cooperate with the IAEA.
U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA Glyn Davies said in an interview that "the level of concern about the Iranian program has gone up tremendously" in recent months, since the revelation of Iran's secret uranium enrichment facility at Qom, the announcement that Tehran intends to build 10 more enrichment facilities, and what Mr. Davies called "the precipitous step Iran took to enrich uranium from 3.5 percent purity up to 20 percent purity, which gets it just on the edge of what's called highly enriched uranium, which can, of course, be made into bombs."
Mr. Davies emphasized that the United States and its partners in the so-called P5+1 group – Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany -- very much want to find a diplomatic solution to the questions raised by Iran's nuclear program and nuclear intentions. "We are going to continue to work hard on incentives and engagement," said Mr. Davies. "But at the same time we will try to find ways to focus Iran's thinking and pressure them into making the right decisions for their own good, for the good of the region, and frankly for the good of the entire world."