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Iran’s sole nuclear power plant undergoes emergency shutdown

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s sole nuclear power plant has undergone an unexplained temporary emergency shutdown, the country’s state TV reported.

An official from the state electric company Tavanir, Gholamali Rakhshanimehr, said on a talk show that aired on Sunday that the Bushehr plant shutdown began on Saturday and would last “for three to four days.” Without elaborating, he said that power outages could result.

This is the first time Iran has reported an emergency shutdown of the plant in the southern port city of Bushehr. It went online in 2011 with help from Russia. Iran must send spent fuel rods from the reactor back to Russia as a nuclear nonproliferation measure.

The report came as top diplomats said that further progress had been made at talks Sunday between Iran and global powers to restore a landmark 2015 agreement to contain Iranian nuclear development abandoned by the Trump administration. They said it was now up to the governments involved in the negotiations to make political decisions.

Tavanir released a statement saying that the Bushehr nuclear plant was being repaired earlier in the day without further details. It said the repair work would take until Friday.

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

Bushehr is fueled by uranium produced in Russia, not Iran, and is monitored by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA acknowledged being aware of reports about the plant but declined to comment.

Construction on the plant, on the coast of the northern reaches of the Persian Gulf, began under Iran’s Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi 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 sat 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.

Meanwhile, the European Union on Sunday chaired the final meeting in Vienna of the sixth round of talks between Russia, China, Germany, France, Britain, and Iran.

The nations involved in the negotiations have been trying to resolve the significant outstanding issues on how to return the U.S. into the landmark nuclear agreement, which then-President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of unilaterally in 2018. Trump also restored and augmented sanctions to try to force Tehran into renegotiating the pact with more concessions.

The meeting was the first since Iran’s hard-line judiciary chief won a landslide victory in the country’s presidential election last Friday. Some diplomats expressed concern that the election of Iran’s incoming President Ebrahim Raisi could complicate a possible return to the nuclear agreement.

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