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Iran Nuclear Plant Shuts Down

Iran's only nuclear power plant was shut down this weekend in an emergency move that Iranian media reported on but provided no details.

The Associated Press wrote, citing an Iranian power utility official, that the shutdown could result in blackouts but also that it would only last for three to four days.

According to Russia's Sputnik, which cited Iranian Press TV, the Bushehr plant was shut down four days ago, and it had already caused a power shortage of some 1,000 MW.

Earlier this year, an official from Iran's Atomic Energy Organization warned about the possibility of a shutdown for the Bushehr plant because of U.S. sanctions. These, Mahmoud Jafari said in March, prevent the Islamic Republic from transferring money internationally to buy the equipment necessary for the plant. Iran is also finding it hard to pay the Russian contractors from Rosatom, who are in charge of the plant's maintenance.

The Bushehr nuclear plant, which only has one reactor, was built by Russian contractors in 2011, although construction first began as far back as the 1970s. Following the Islamic Revolution from 1979 and the consequent war with Iraq, construction work was delayed as the site became a target of attacks for the Iraqi forces

The plant only became fully operational in 2016. There are plans to expand the facility with a second reactor, but this would cost some $10 billion. Currently, nuclear power ranks fourth in Iran's energy mic, after natural gas, oil, and hydropower.

The Bushehr nuclear power plant is not considered a threat when it comes to the potential proliferation of nuclear activities beyond civil purposes, according to the UN watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Regarding the country's uranium enrichment program, which is considered a threat, talks resumed yesterday in Vienna.

"We are now in a situation [where] we think almost all the agreement documents are ready," the Iranian deputy foreign minister for political affairs told media yesterday.

"Of the main issues, some have been resolved and some remain, but it has taken on a very precise form and it is quite clear what the dimensions of these disputes are," Abbas Araghchi said.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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