Saturday, February 26, 2005

Oh, boy. There's nothing to worry about now, is there:
"TEHRAN, February 26 (RIA Novosti, Nikolai Terekhov) - On Saturday Russia and Iran sign an agreement on the return of spent nuclear fuel from the Bushehr nuclear power plant's first unit, said the head of the Russian Federal Agency for Nuclear Energy, Alexander Rumyantsev upon arrival on an official visit to Iran.

Answering RIA Novosti's question on the aims of the visit, he said the main aim was "to see at site the nuclear power plant's first unit being built." The head of Rosatom stressed the necessity to closely monitor the construction on the part of the leadership to expedite work and prevent difficulties.

"We should say with content that the construction of the unit is nearing completion, and now we are preparing the fuel to be delivered to the NPP," said Mr. Rumyantsev.

"We hope," he said, "that we will sign documents that regulate handling fuel on the Bushehr-1 reactor.

Mr. Rumyantsev said "within the framework of our traditional Russia-Iran relations, we will discuss the prospects of our further cooperation."

Touching upon the negotiating process between Iran and the European Union, as well as the issue of Washington's pressure on Tehran, Rumyantsev said "Iran is implementing its nuclear programs under full control of the IAEA, that's why there are no problems here."

Touching upon the issue of a possible construction by Russian experts of the second unit of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the head of Rosatom said it was necessary to complete the construction of the first unit and then speak about the second one.

Rumyantsev said once again that "the project of the construction of the first unit of the Bushehr NPP is absolutely peaceful and is under full control of the IAEA."

The facility will be put into operation in late 2005, to be commissioned in the beginning of 2006.
Except there is.
"... Rumyantsev, referring to the U.N.'s Vienna-based nuclear watchdog, reiterated that delivery and return of spent nuclear fuel "will be conducted strictly under the International Atomic Energy Agency's aegis."

Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said Iranian and Russian officials were settling details over the time of delivering nuclear fuel to Iran.

"The difference over the timing of delivery is between one or two months, which should be solved soon," IRNA quoted Saeedi as saying. ...

"If the (power station) comes on stream in 2006, then for now it is too early to be delivering fuel," Rumyantsev said.
If the reactor is to be fired up for testing in late 2005 with full operation in 2006, I find it hard to believe there would be argumentative differences over whether the fuel is delivered in one or two months. (No doubt the Russians want to deliver it tomorrow and the Iranians want to wait for two months. Uh huh.)

What a host of problems are being swept under the rug by Putin. First off, the Russians have trouble accounting and securing their own nuclear materials; much less managing an agreement to guarantee the same for Iran. Second, IAEA monitoring and verification of Iranian compliance to their obligations are a joke - Iran's cooperation has been only a few rungs below that of Iraq under Saddam. When Iran's nuclear weapons development schedule goes critical, the IAEA will be bounced just as it was with Iraq on WMD and DPNK, the latter seesawing every few months.

If the Russians gave a damn and were working in good faith with Europe and the US, they would be waiting, at the barest minimum, until all the protocols are prepared and signed by Iran with the 'European Three' before even discussing if delivery should be in one month or 12.

But the Russians have an advantage. First, they can say they need the money. Second, they also need to keep their nuclear folks employed so they don't go off to freelance. ... Finally, reason #999 is that the various sites can always be destroyed by you know who.

When the last reason has to be implemented, it would be a bummer if the Russians hadn't gotten paid yet! Let's see now, where's Jim Baker's phone number ...

022705,11:25AM Update: Russia and Iran signed the agreement, today. Both hope the provisions for delivery and repatriation of the spent fuel it will allay US concerns. Details of the provisions were not divulged! Yeah, that will work.

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