This section is still under construction and will be updated from time to time.



Iran unveiled three squadrons of new flying boats on Tuesday, Iranian news agencies reported.
The craft, dubbed the Bavar 2, is armed with a machine gun and carries surveillance cameras, according to a report from the Iranian Student News Agency.



If the international community is sincere in saying that Iran is entitled to a right to develop peaceful atomic energy, then its nuclear power plant at Bushehr should operate, says political commentator Sergey Strokan.

However, after the Russian-built
nuclear power plant was loaded with fuel in Iran's city of Bushehr on Saturday, the start-up received mixed reaction from across the globe, with Israel calling the idea of the station “unacceptable.”  
Strokan insists the “noise” over the plant is exaggerated, saying the station’s launch does not fall under the recent UN sanctions against Iran.
Bushehr station is operating in full compliance with the recommendations of the international atomic energy experts,” said Strokan. “It doesn’t contradict the so-called nuclear non-proliferation regime.”

Ali Ansari, a professor of Iranian history at St. Andrews University in London, says the development of the power plant should in fact be welcomed.

Michael Thomas from the Middle East Association in London believes that supplying Iran with the uranium needed for its research reactor could in fact ensure that the country curbs its ambitions to enrich uranium on its own.

It actually shows that a system can work, that Russia is supplying the enriched uranium and we’ll be taking it away,” Ansari said. “In some ways, it undermines Iran’s position that it needs to enrich uranium on its own accord.”



The fuelling of the Bushehr reactor represents a milestone in the development of Iran's nuclear programme.  It has been something of a marathon challenge.
"Once up and running, some 35 years after the project first began, Bushehr will be the first nuclear power reactor to generate electricity in the Middle East," says Mark Hibbs, a veteran nuclear analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Technically this could be within a matter of months, though US sources believe that it may be up to a year before the reactor is supplying power to the Iranian grid.
"The project has survived international sanctions, aerial attacks by Iraq, and decisions by Iran's revolutionary leaders first to scrap the programme, and then to restart it with new partners in Russia," says Mr Hibbs.

Given all the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear activities and the widespread concerns in the US and Europe that it is pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons programme, many people may wonder why alarm bells are not sounding at the news that the Bushehr reactor is taking another important step towards becoming operational.

The reason is that Iran's power-generating programme, which for now rests upon this single Russian-supplied reactor, and its uranium enrichment programme are, up to a point, two different things.

Even many of Iran's critics do not deny it the right to generate power by nuclear means.
The fuel for the Bushehr reactor will be provided by Russia and it will be returned there for re-processing.

And for all its disagreements with the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Russian-supplied fuel will be subject to a wide array of safeguards.
Indeed experienced arms control experts like Mark Fitzpatrick at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London (IISS) believe that a working Iranian reactor does not pose a proliferation risk as long as it is run solely to produce power for electricity generation.
"It would be a risk if Iran operated it differently, i.e. for short periods at low burn-up in order to produce weapons-usable plutonium. But in this case, the IAEA would know," Mr Fitzpatrick says.
"Likewise, the IAEA would know if Iran tried to divert the spent fuel, before it is cooled sufficiently to send it back to Russia."
'Not a target'

Some pundits, not least Washington's former Ambassador to the UN in the Bush years, John Bolton, have warned that the loading of the reactor changes western calculations.
It means that it will now be impossible for Israel or the US to attack the facility from the air, since bombing the reactor after the fuel rods are loaded would spread radiation.
But Mr Fitzpatrick wonders why Bushehr would be a target at all.
"If and when Israel does carry out air strikes, I don't think Bushehr would be in their target set," he says.
"With limited sorties available, they would go after Natanz, Esfahan, Fardo and targets associated with Iran's enrichment effort."
Mr Hibbs, too, believes that the proliferation risks from Bushehr are minimal.
"Theoretically, Iran could take the high risk of diverting IAEA-inspected fuel from Bushehr to make fuel for a nuclear weapon," he says  "But Iran's centrifuges are far more tailor-made for that purpose. Any attempt by Iran to divert Bushehr fuel would become known."

Nonetheless, Mr Hibbs argues that the eventual start-up of Bushehr does represent a setback to Western diplomatic efforts.

"Western governments have sought to put Bushehr under international sanctions. But the sanctions policy failed on two accounts: they failed to prevent Iran from operating Bushehr, and they also probably made the reactor less safe," he says.
When Bushehr starts up, it will be the only power reactor in the world operating without its national government belonging to the international Nuclear Safety Convention.
Mr Hibbs worries that because Iran's co-operation with the IAEA is limited, "without Iran's participation in this convention, the outside world has no credible assurances from Iran that it is operating Bushehr in a manner reflecting internationally acceptable safety standards."
As the first electricity-generating reactor in the region, the Iranian project is being watched closely by its neighbours.

Uranium question

Many other countries in the Gulf and beyond - the UAE and Jordan, for example - are eager to pursue nuclear power.
Any safety setback in Iran could seriously damage the image of nuclear power generation in the region as a whole.
Certainly the Iranian authorities will seek to present the fuelling of the reactor as a significant national step forward.
In general terms, it will help Iranian technicians to gain more experience in the nuclear field.
But it still leaves open a fundamental question: What is Iran's uranium enrichment programme for?
Iran claims that it is developing this technology to supply fuel for a future series of locally-built reactors to fulfil the country's long-term energy needs.
But Mr Fitzpatrick wonders how Iran will build reactors on its own.
"They certainly would not be safe", he told me.
With or without Bushehr operating, the basic issues surrounding Iran's enrichment effort remain. In the absence of negotiations, Washington and its allies look set to try to pull the sanctions net even tighter.

Iran begins loading Bushehr nuclear reactor
21 August 2010 Last updated at 21:18

Iran has begun loading fuel into its first nuclear power station in a ceremony attended by Russian officials.
Russia will operate the Bushehr plant in southern Iran, supplying its nuclear fuel and taking away the nuclear waste.
Iran has been subject to four rounds of UN sanctions because of its separate uranium enrichment programme.
Experts say that as long as the plant is Russian-operated, there is little immediate threat of its fuel being diverted to make bombs.
From Washington, the US state department said that it saw no "proliferation risk" from the plant. The UK also said had "always respected" Iran's right to civilian nuclear power.
However Israel has condemned the move.
"It is totally unacceptable that a country that so blatantly violates (international treaties) should enjoy the fruits of using nuclear energy," its Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The Bushehr facility has taken 35 years to build and has been plagued by delays.
"Despite all pressure, sanctions and hardships imposed by western nations, we are now witnessing the startup of the largest symbol of Iran's peaceful nuclear activities," Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi told journalists at the plant.
The BBC's Jon Leyne says Iranian officials have promoted Saturday's launch as a victory for the Islamic republic against its enemies. Nationwide celebrations are planned to mark the event.
But Professor Ali Ansari, an Iran expert at the University of St Andrews, in Scotland, said Tehran was likely to exaggerate the importance of the start-up at Bushehr.
"It will obviously have a very theatrical opening but the delays have meant that the power plant is a very old model and the contribution to the national grid is very small," he said.
'Russian-US deal'
Reports in Washington suggested that the US lifted its objections to the completion of the plant at Bushehr as the price for Russia's vote in the latest round of sanctions against Iran.
Western officials have been changing their tune recently, our correspondent says, describing Bushehr as an example of the peaceful benefits of nuclear energy, to which Iran is entitled.
While backing Iran's right to civilian nuclear power, UK Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said there were other issues that caused concern.
"The problem is Iran's continued refusal to satisfy the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and international community that its work on uranium enrichment and heavy water projects are exclusively peaceful," he said.
The Bushehr plant should begin producing electricity in about a month, experts say.
It is not seen by analysts as posing a significant proliferation risk.
The uranium fuel it will use is well below the enrichment level needed for a nuclear weapon. Weapons-grade uranium must be enriched by more than 90%. In contrast, the uranium at Bushehr is enriched by 3.5%.
The Bushehr fuel has been supplied by Russia, although Iran is already producing its own uranium enriched to fuel grade.
It has also begun a pilot program to enrich uranium to 20% which it says is needed for a medical research reactor.
It is that programme that has alarmed the West and Israel.
The West fears Tehran wants to build a nuclear weapon, but Iran insists its plans are for peaceful energy production.
In a defiant statement on Friday, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation Ali Akbar Salehi said the country would continue uranium enrichment, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported.
Referring to the Bushehr plant, he said: "Suppose we receive the required nuclear fuel for the plant from the Russians for the next 10 years, what are we going to do for the next 30 to 50 years?"
He said Iran could produce up to 30 tons of enriched uranium at its Natanz plant once the necessary centrifuges are installed at the site.