A months-long delay in starting up Iran's first nuclear power plant is the result of a small leak, not a computer worm that was found on the laptops of several plant employees, the country's nuclear chief said on Monday.
The leak occurred in a storage pool where the plant's fuel is being held before being fed into the reactor core, and it has been fixed, said Ali Akbar Salehi, who is also Iran's vice president.
He did not specify whether it was nuclear fuel or another material that leaked. He first announced the delay on Thursday but without giving a reason.
Iranian officials say they are vigorously battling the Stuxnet computer worm, which they suspect is part of a covert plot by the West to damage Iran's nuclear work.
The United States, Israel and others accuse Iran of seeking to use the Bushehr power plant and other civil nuclear sites as a cover for a secret programme to develop atomic weapons.
Iran denies any nuclear weapons ambitions and says its programme is only for peaceful purposes like power generation and medical research.
The malicious computer code, designed to take over industrial sites like power plants, has also emerged in India, Indonesia and the U.S. But it has spread the most in Iran.
Though it infected several personal computers of workers at the Bushehr plant, Iran says the facility's main systems were not affected. Still, that was the first public sign to emerge that the code has hit computers linked to Iran's nuclear programme.
The delay at Bushehr has no connection with Stuxnet, Salehi said, according to a report in the official IRNA news agency.
"During a washing process prior to loading the actual nuclear fuel, a small leak was observed in a pool next to the reactor and was fixed. This leak delayed activities for a few days," IRNA quoted Salehi as saying.