Iran on Saturday began fueling its Bushehr nuclear power plant, a process that is likely to take many days. The reactor’s operations must then be tested before it starts producing electricity, which is expected in about two months. Russia’s Rosatom state nuclear power company, which built the reactor, has assigned Russian technicians to jointly operate the reactor for several years, as Iranian technicians gradually gain full control over the operations.
The startup of the reactor is another sign of Iran’s steady progress across many nuclear fronts. Although the Bushehr reactor is a relatively minor proliferation risk, because it will be monitored by IAEA inspectors and Iran has much better options for obtaining bomb-grade fissile material from other sources, the impending startup is one more nuclear threshold that Iran is on the verge of crossing. This has fueled speculation about the increasing likelihood of an Israeli preventive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Iran’s Defense Minister, Ahmad Vahidi, warned Israel against such an attack: “We may lose a power plant, but the whole existence of the Zionist regime will be jeopardized.”
Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also made an appearance on Sunday to participate in the ongoing war of nerves between Iran and the West. Appearing at a press conference to unveil the prototype of a long range drone aircraft, Ahmadinejad said that Iran should seek the ability to make preemptive strikes against an enemy. He said: “We should reach a point when Iran would serve as a defense umbrella for all freedom-loving nations in the face of world aggressors. We don’t want to attack anywhere, Iran will never decide to attack anywhere, but our revolution cannot sit idle in the face of tyranny, we can’t remain indifferent.”