Iran’s sole nuclear power plant shut down over ‘technical fault’

In March, nuclear official Mahmoud Jafari said the plant could stop working since Iran cannot procure parts and equipment for it from Russia due to banking sanctions imposed by the US in 2018.

Monday 21/06/2021
A file picture shows the reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran. (AFP)
A file picture shows the reactor building at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran. (AFP)

TEHRAN – 

“Following a technical fault at Bushehr power plant and after a one-day notice to the energy ministry, the plant was temporarily shut down and taken off the power grid,” the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran said on its website around Sunday midnight.

The statement said the station, Iran’s sole nuclear power plant, will be reconnected to the grid and the issue will be resolved “in a few days”, but did not elaborate further.

Iran’s national electricity company had in a statement on Sunday called on Iranians to minimise consumption during peak hours due to a “predicted rise in temperature” and “limitations in power generation due to ongoing repairs at (the) Bushehr plant”. The company said that the repairs may continue until the end of the week, which is Friday in Iran.

The Bushehr plant, which produces 1,000 megawatts of power, was completed by Russia after years of delay and officially handed over in September 2013.

In 2016, Russian and Iranian firms began building two additional 1,000-megawatt reactors at Bushehr. Their construction was expected to take ten years.

Iran’s Arab Gulf neighbours have often raised concerns about the reliability of the Bushehr facility and the risk of radioactive leaks in the event of a major earthquake.

In April, Bushehr province was shaken by a 5.9-magnitude earthquake, leaving five people injured but causing “no damage” to the nuclear complex, according to authorities.

Iran started rolling blackouts in May after Tehran and several other cities were hit by unannounced power cuts that sparked complaints from consumers and an apology from the energy minister.

A file picture shows the inside of the reactor at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran. (AP)
A file picture shows the inside of the reactor at the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran. (AP)

The shortages were blamed on heat, drought impacting hydropower generation and surging electricity demand blamed in part on crypto-currency mining.

This is the first time Iran has reported an emergency shutdown of the plant in the southern port city of Bushehr. It went online in 2012 with help from Russia. Iran is required to send spent fuel rods from the reactor back to Russia as a nuclear nonproliferation measure.

However, in February 2011, shortly after the reactor core had been loaded with fuel, Iran told the IAEA that the fuel would have to be removed. It said that a broken pump had allowed metal particles to get into the reactor’s cooling system which might then find their way into the fuel assemblies. Two months later the fuel was reloaded There was speculation at the time that the damage had been causedby the Stuxnet computer virus.

Earlier on Sunday, Tavanir released a statement saying that the nuclear plant was being repaired, without offering further details. It said the repair work would take until Friday.

In March, nuclear official Mahmoud Jafari said the plant could stop working since Iran cannot procure parts and equipment for it from Russia due to banking sanctions imposed by the US in 2018.