Iran’s only nuclear power plant has returned to service, its director said Monday morning, after two weeks off-grid amid a power shortage and blackouts across the Islamic Republic.
The Bushehr plant shutdown was first blamed on a “technical defect” that required repairs, followed by conflicting reports that it was a regular maintenance operation.
The plant’s decommissioning came as Tehran and world powers in Vienna try to revive a stymied 2015 deal on Iran’s nuclear program that was torpedoed by the United States.
It is returning to the grid as major cities in Iran, including the capital Tehran, experience frequent power outages, attributed to high summer demand exceeding production levels.
The “technical flaw” that closed the Bushehr plant “has been fixed,” Mahmoud Jafari, who is also deputy director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), told the agency. ISNA press around midnight.
This allowed the plant to be reconnected to the national electricity grid and to resume production.
Jafari said power generation resumed on Sunday and urged the Iranians to “help” the overloaded grid by minimizing electricity consumption as high temperatures are expected in the coming days.
The plant on the south coast of Iran and its 1,000 megawatt reactor was built by Russia and officially handed over in September 2013 after years of delay.
Russian and Iranian companies began work on two additional 1,000 megawatt reactors in 2016, which are expected to take 10 years to build.
On June 20, the AEOI blamed “a technical flaw” for the shutdown and said it gave the Energy Ministry a day’s notice before going offline.
He said two days later that the problem was with the plant’s “generator set”, without giving further explanation.
But the then Iranian foreign ministry called the shutdown “routine”, saying it took place “once or twice a year.”
– Record power consumption –
Bushehr plant chief Jafari said in late March that Iran was struggling to source supplies to run Bushehr due to US sanctions, and warned of an imminent shutdown “if no solution is found. ‘is found’.
# photo1Thran is engaged in discussions with world powers in Vienna to relaunch the 2015 nuclear deal which granted Iran relief from international sanctions in exchange for limiting its nuclear program.
But hopes for growing prosperity were dashed in 2018 when former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal and reimposed punitive sanctions on Tehran.
Trump’s successor Joe Biden is in favor of returning the deal and his administration is indirectly involved in the Vienna talks to save the deal.
Bushehr’s shutdown had raised concerns of more serious power outages after a series of power cuts in Iran due to heat, drought affecting hydropower facilities and rising demand for electricity.
Iran introduced planned and ongoing blackouts in May after Tehran and several other cities were hit with unexpected power cuts, prompting consumer complaints and an apology from the energy minister.
A spokesperson for the Iranian electricity company apologized on Monday for the unexpected blackouts the day before.
Mostafa Rajabi-Mashhadi said the record consumption of 65,900 megawatts exceeded the 55,000 MW capacity of Iranian power plants and that an “impending heat wave” could worsen the situation, the IRNA news agency reported.
Power cuts are not uncommon during Iran’s hot summers, when the air conditioning uses spikes. Adding to the problem, the country’s hydropower capacity has been affected by poor rainfall.
A government report released in May said rainfall was down 34% from the long-term average, and warned of a reduction in water supplies for the year.
© 2021 AFP