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Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP)

  • Location
    Halileh, 12km south of Bushehr
  • Type
    Nuclear-Power Reactors
  • Facility Status
    1 reactor operational, 2 new reactors planned

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This page is part of the Facilities Collection.

The Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) is Iran’s first commercial nuclear reactor. In 1994, Tehran and Moscow signed an agreement to construct the VVER 1000MWe light-water reactor, and construction started the same year. 1

Iran had previously attempted to build a nuclear power plant at the Bushehr site, and in 1974 contracted the German company Siemens (then KraftWerk) to build two reactors. The first unit was approaching completion when Iran halted the project as a result of the 1979 Iranian revolution. 2 During the Iran-Iraq war, the reactors sustained severe damage in an Iraqi bombing raid. 3 After the war, Siemens refused to continue with construction in the face of extreme diplomatic pressure from the United States.

The Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant is unique in design because Russia agreed to incorporate its VVER technology into the original German-built infrastructure. 4 In a series of shipments between December 2007 and January 2008, Iran received a total of 82 tons of fuel from Russia for the initial fuel loading of the BNPP. 5 The IAEA has arranged to verify and seal the fresh fuel shipments, and all the fuel assemblies imported from Russia for use at the Bushehr plant remain under Agency seals before being loaded into the reactor. 6 Iran is required to return spent fuel rods from Bushehr to Russia as soon as they are safe for transport. 7 Indicating that the plant was nearing completion, engineers conducted a series of pre-start tests in 2009 and 2010. 8

Loading of fuel into the reactor core was finished in November 2010. 9 However, in February 2011 Iran informed the IAEA that the fuel would have to be removed. 10 A broken pump had caused small metal particles to infiltrate the reactor’s cooling system, and it was feared that the particles might have made their way into the fuel assemblies. 11 It was speculated that the Stuxnet computer virus had caused damage to the facility. 12 In April 2011, the fuel was reloaded into the reactor. 13 The following month, the Bushehr plant began operating at low levels. 14 On 11 February 2012 the plant was connected to the national grid, generating 700 megawatts of electricity. That same month, Iranian Atomic Energy Organization chief Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani announced that the plant would operate at full capacity starting in late March 2012. 15

In 2013, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit the southwest region of Iran, where Bushehr is located. 16 Given that much of Iran is in a seismic zone, many expressed concerns over Bushehr’s safety following the earthquake. For example, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia voiced concerns at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting in June 2013. 17 Iran denied allegations concerning the plant’s safety “vulnerability.” 18 Simultaneously, Iran reported an electric generator malfunction and “long cracks […] in at least one section of the structure.” However, Tehran dismissed the suggestion that the malfunction was connected to the earthquake. 19 The IAEA’s May 2013 report indicated that the reactor was shut down during its inspections on 11 and 12 May 2013. 20 IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano later stated that the IAEA had no information regarding the causes of the plant’s shutdown. The IAEA’s 12 August 2013 inspection of the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant indicated that the reactor was operating at 100% of capacity. 21

On 24 November 2013 the E3/EU+3 talks in Geneva resulted in the Joint Plan of Action (JCPA), which allowed the IAEA 24-hour access to the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant for inspections. 22 On 14 July 2015, the E3/EU+3 and Iran finalized the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). 23 The JCPOA does not specifically mention the Bushehr nuclear facility, but the agreement stipulates that Iran intends to ship out all spent nuclear fuel and will not engage in spent fuel reprocessing for 15 years. 24

On 10 September 2016, Iranian officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of an additional two nuclear reactors in the same complex, anticipating completion within ten years with Russian help. 25 At the ceremony, the head of the AEOI, Dr. Salehi, declared that construction would abide by IAEA safeguards. 26 The two 1000MWe reactors will be AES-92 Generation III+ VVER pressurized-water reactors, and will also power two desalination plants. 27 The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran predicts that nuclear power will provide between 8 and 10 percent of the country’s electricity after these plants come online. 28

Representatives of Rosatom’s nuclear fuel division signed a contract with the AEOI on 19 June 2017 for the Russian company to deliver reserve fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power plant in late 2017, an indication of the ongoing nuclear partnership between Russia and Iran. 29

In July 2022, Mohammad Eslami, head of AEOI, said that Iran is accelerating the pace of its reactor construction at Bushehr after Iranian President Raisi visited the site.30


Nuclear reactor
Nuclear reactor: A vessel in which nuclear fission may be sustained and controlled in a chain nuclear reaction. The varieties are many, but all incorporate certain features, including: fissionable or fissile fuel; a moderating material (unless the reactor is operated on fast neutrons); a reflector to conserve escaping neutrons; provisions of removal of heat; measuring and controlling instruments; and protective devices.
Nuclear power plant
Nuclear power plant: A facility that generates electricity using a nuclear reactor as its heat source to provide steam to a turbine generator.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
IAEA: Founded in 1957 and based in Vienna, Austria, the IAEA is an autonomous international organization in the United Nations system. The Agency’s mandate is the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, technical assistance in this area, and verification that nuclear materials and technology stay in peaceful use. Article III of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT to accept safeguards administered by the IAEA. The IAEA consists of three principal organs: the General Conference (of member states); the Board of Governors; and the Secretariat. For additional information, see the IAEA.
Spent nuclear fuel
Spent nuclear fuel: Irradiated nuclear fuel. Once irradiated, nuclear fuel is highly radioactive and extremely physically hot, necessitating special remote handling. Fuel is considered “self protecting” if it is sufficiently radioactive that those who might seek to divert it would not be able to handle it directly without suffering acute radiation exposure.
The central part of a nuclear reactor where nuclear fission occurs. It contains the fuel, control rods, moderator, coolant, and support structures.
Reprocessing: The chemical treatment of spent nuclear fuel to separate the remaining usable plutonium and uranium for re-fabrication into fuel, or alternatively, to extract the plutonium for use in nuclear weapons.
Safeguards: A system of accounting, containment, surveillance, and inspections aimed at verifying that states are in compliance with their treaty obligations concerning the supply, manufacture, and use of civil nuclear materials. The term frequently refers to the safeguards systems maintained by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in all nuclear facilities in non-nuclear weapon state parties to the NPT. IAEA safeguards aim to detect the diversion of a significant quantity of nuclear material in a timely manner. However, the term can also refer to, for example, a bilateral agreement between a supplier state and an importer state on the use of a certain nuclear technology.

See entries for Full-scope safeguards, information-driven safeguards, Information Circular 66, and Information Circular 153.


  1. “Nuclear Energy in Iran,” World Nuclear Association, www.world-nuclear.org.
  2. “Nuclear Energy in Iran,” World Nuclear Association, www.world-nuclear.org.
  3. Robert Tait, “Iran Makes First Test-Run of Bushehr Nuclear Reactor,” The Guardian, 25 January 2009, www.guardian.co.uk.
  4. “Bushehr Enclosure Leak-Tested,” 16 February 2010, World Nuclear News, www.world-nuclear-news.org.
  5. “Iran receives final shipment of fuel for Bushehr,” 28 January 2008, World Nuclear News, www.world-nuclear-news.org.
  6. “Iran receives final shipment of fuel for Bushehr,” 28 January 2008, World Nuclear News, www.world-nuclear-news.org.
  7. “Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant,” Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), www.isisnucleariran.org.
  8. “Iranian Reactor Completes Latest Pre-Start Tests,” 12 January 2010, World Nuclear News, www.world-nuclear-news.org.
  9. “Iran completes fueling Bushehr reactor,” PressTV, 1 December 2010, www.presstv.ir.
  10. “Iran nuclear plans: Bushehr fuel to be unloaded,” BBC, 26 February 2011, www.bbc.co.uk.
  11. William J. Broad, “Russians Say Damaged Cooling Pump Is Cause of Delay in Starting Iranian Reactor,” The New York Times, 28 February 2011.
  12. “Iran nuclear plans: Bushehr fuel to be unloaded,” BBC, 26 February 2011, www.bbc.co.uk.
  13. Ali Akbar Dareini, “Russia: Fuel Loading Resumes at Bushehr,” The Associated Press, 8 April 2011.
  14. “Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant begins operation,” BBC, 10 May 2011, www.bbc.co.uk.
  15. Ladane Nasseri, “Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Plant to Work at Full Capacity, IRNA Says,” Bloomberg, 26 February 2012.
  16. “Deadly quake in south-west Iran’s Bushehr province,” BBC, 10 April 2013, www.bbc.co.uk.
  17. “Iran’s Gulf Arab neighbors worried about Bushehr reactor,” Al Arabiya, 6 June 2013, www.alarabiya.net.
  18. “Iran dismisses hype on Bushehr plant’s ‘vulnerability,’” PressTV, 10 June 2013, www.presstv.ir.
  19. “Iranian ambassador: Russia-built Bushehr nuclear plant suffered electric generator malfunction,” Washington Post, 10 June 2013, www.washingtonpost.com.
  20. International Atomic Agency Organization, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolution in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Report by the Director General, 22 May 2013, www.iaea.org.
  21. International Atomic Energy Agency, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” GOV/2013/56, 14 November 2013.
  22. “Iran Nuclear Deal: Joint Plan of Action-Full Document,” via: The Guardian, 24 November 2013, www.theguardian.com.
  23. “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” US Department of State, 14 July 2015, www.state.gov.
  24. “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” US Department of State, 14 July 2015, www.state.gov.
  25. “Inauguration of two new power plant units construction in Bushehr,” Press Release by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, 18 September 2016, www.aeoi.org.ir.
  26. “Inauguration of two new power plant units construction in Bushehr,” Press Release by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, 18 September 2016, www.aeoi.org.ir.
  27. “Nuclear Power in Iran,” World Nuclear Organization of Iran, April 2017, accessed 26 June 2017, www.world-nuclear.org.
  28. “Conference on JCPOA and Economic of Resistance held in foreign ministry,” Press Release by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, 15 May 2017, www.aeoi.org.ir.
  29. “Rosatom Fuel Company TVEL and Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran have signed the Fuel Supple Contract for the reserve refueling at ATOMEXPO’2017,” Press Release by TVEL, 20 June 2017, www.tvel.ru.
  30. “Iran Accelerated Projects for Phase 2&3 of Bushehr Nuclear Plant,” Iran International, 22 July 2022, www.iranintl.com.


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