Iran’s only nuclear power plant undergoes emergency shutdown

Official says temporary shutdown for repairs started on Saturday and could last up to four days, possibly causing power outages.

This is the first time Iran has reported an emergency shutdown of the plant, located in the southern port city of Bushehr [File: Majid Asgaripour/Mehr News Agency via Reuters]

Iran’s sole nuclear power plant was temporarily shutdown because of a “technical fault” and it will take days before it is operational again.

“Following a technical fault at Bushehr power plant, and after a one-day notice to the energy ministry, the plant was temporarily shut down and taken off the power grid,” Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said on its website early Monday.

Iran’s national electricity company in a statement on Sunday called on Iranians to minimise consumption during peak hours because of a “predicted rise in temperature” and “limitations in power generation due to ongoing repairs at [the] Bushehr plant”.

The company said the repairs may continue until the end of the week, which is Friday in Iran.

An official from the state electric energy company, Gholamali Rakhshanimehr, said on a talk show on state-run TV that the Bushehr plant shutdown began on Saturday and would last “for three to four days”.

He added power outages could result. He did not elaborate further, but this is the first time Iran has reported an emergency shutdown of the plant, located in the southern port city of Bushehr.

It went online in 2011 with help from Russia. Iran is required to send spent fuel rods from the reactor back to Russia as a nuclear nonproliferation measure.

In March, nuclear official Mahmoud Jafari said the plant could stop working since Iran cannot procure parts and equipment for it from Russia due to banking sanctions imposed by the United States in 2018.

Bushehr is fuelled by uranium produced in Russia, not Iran, and is monitored by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The UN agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the reported shutdown.

Abas Aslani, a senior researcher at the Tehran-based Center for Middle East Strategic Studies, told Al Jazeera the shutdown could be a blow to an Iranian power supply already strained by cryptocurrency mining.

“This [shutdown] is more important in terms of the power outage, than the nuclear aspect of the facility,” Aslani said.

“Because these days we are seeing the cryptocurrency mining is consuming electricity in the country and this has caused some power outages in the past.”

Construction on Bushehr, on the coast of the northern reaches of the Gulf, began under Iran’s shah in the mid-1970s.

After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the plant was repeatedly targeted in the Iran-Iraq war. Russia later completed the construction of the facility.

The plant, which sits near active fault lines and was built to withstand powerful quakes, has been periodically shaken by temblors. There have been no significant earthquakes reported in the area in recent days.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies