Iran ‘tests homegrown’ nuclear fuel rods

The war games aim to display Iran's military capabilities amid increasing pressure over its atomic programme [Reuters]

Iran has successfully produced and tested fuel rods for use in its nuclear power plants, state television reported.

The rods were made with uranium ore deposits mined in Iran and have been inserted into the core of Tehran's research nuclear reactor, the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation said on Sunday.

Nuclear fuel rods contain small pellets of fuel, usually low-enriched uranium, patterned to give out heat produced by nuclear reaction without melting down.

Iran said last month that it planned to insert domestically produced uranium fuel into the Tehran research reactor, which produces isotopes for medical purposes and currently runs on a nearly depleted stock of nuclear plates bought from Argentina in 1993.

"This great achievement will perplex the West, because the Western countries had counted on a possible failure of Iran to produce nuclear fuel plates," the newspaper said.

The Tehran reactor requires uranium enriched to 20 per cent, a far higher level than that needed for Iran's Russian-built nuclear power plant in Bushehr, on the Gulf coast, which uses Russian fuel that is returned when spent.

The atomic energy organisation did not specify the level of enrichment of the trial fuel rod but Iran's programme to enrich uranium to the higher level has been at the centre of growing Western concerns about the goals of its nuclear programme.

John Large, an independent nuclear consultant, told Al Jazeera the reported developments would mean that Iran "can now produce key radioactive elements" and has moved "steps forward on the nuclear path".

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