TEHRAN, Iran – In a major setback to Iran’s nuclear program, technicians will have to unload fuel from the country’s first atomic power plant because of an unspecified safety concern, a senior government official said.
The vague explanation raised questions about whether the mysterious computer worm known as Stuxnet might have caused more damage at the Bushehr plant than previously acknowledged. Other explanations are possible for unloading the fuel rods from the reactor core of the newly completed plant, including routine technical difficulties.
While the exact reason behind the fuel’s removal is unclear, the admission is seen as a major embarrassment for Tehran because it has touted Bushehr — Iran’s first atomic power plant — as its showcase nuclear facility and sees it as a source of national pride. When the Islamic Republic began loading the fuel just four months ago, Iranian officials celebrated the achievement.