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Iran loads fuel rods into Bushehr nuclear power plant

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Majid Asgaripour/Mehr News Agency/AP

(Read caption) The reactor building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant is seen at center, just outside the southern city of Bushehr, Iran, on Oct. 26. Iran began on Tuesday loading fuel rods into the core of Bushehr, marking the end of long delays in bringing online the plant at the center of Iran’s nuclear power program.

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Iran today began loading fuel rods into the core of its first nuclear power plant, saying the reactor in Bushehr would begin operation by January.

If confirmed, it would mark the end of long delays in bringing online the plant at the center of Iran’s nuclear power program. The last time Iran proclaimed it was ready to power up the Bushehr plant, in August, it sparked alarm that it could be used to create fuel for weapons, although the United States recently withdrew its opposition to the 1,000-megawatt plant.

The move comes as the European Union is pressuring Iran to hold talks on its nuclear program next month. The West accuses Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons, which Iran denies, saying the plant is only for civilian power. Nuclear fuel requires enrichment to 3.5 percent, while weapons grade fuel requires enrichment to 90 percent.

The progress at the nuclear reactor was reported by Iran’s state-run Press TV on Tuesday. The nuclear reactor would begin operating after all 163 fuel rods are inserted into the core, and is expected to begin generating electricity by early 2011, according to Press TV. Iran has declared plans to build 20 nuclear power plants in the next 20 years.

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