Russia Vows to Finish Iran’s Bushehr Reactor in Months

A03925601.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Officials said a Russian nuclear delegation was scheduled to arrive in Iran in September 2008 to discuss a final timetable for the 1,000 megawatt Bushehr power plant.

They said Russia, prime contractor of Bushehr, does not envision full operations of Bushehr before 2009.

“The Iranian nation will witness electricity generation by the Bushehr power plant early next year,” Russian ambassador to Iran Alexander Sadovnikov said.

Bushehr has been more than five years behind schedule amid technical mishaps. Iran said it has paid nearly all of the $1 billion charged by Moscow for the nuclear power reactor.

The Russian delegation was expected to be headed by Federal Atomic Energy Agency director Sergei Kireinko. In June 2008, Kirienko said Bushehr would begin operations in the fall of 2008, a prediction endorsed by Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.

During the visit in September, Iranian and Russian officials will negotiate the final date for commissioning Bushehr power plant.

For his part, Sadovnikov said all elements of Bushehr would be tested by the end of 2008. In an Aug. 23 interview with the Islamic republic news agency, the ambassador said the nuclear power plant would become operational in early 2009.

“Moscow is seriously determined to complete and put into operation the Bushehr nuclear power plant,” Sadovnikov said.

The Iran-Russia joint project was originally supposed to be completed at the beginning of the millennium but has been delayed at least five times for various reasons.

Sadovnikov acknowledged delays of Bushehr. The Russian attributed this to the refusal of unidentified countries to provide Iran with nuclear components and machinery for Bushehr.

The Russian ambassador also said that the delays have been caused by “sanctions imposed by Western powers”.

Under the contract, Sadovnikov said, Russia would bear the expense of additional delays to Bushehr. He did not elaborate.

“Russia has always had a schedule to complete the power plant, but the work schedule has sometimes been out of its control,” Sadovnikov said.

Russia finished delivery of 82 tons of low-enriched uranium for the plant’s light-water reactor in January, and Kirienko said in June that nuclear fuel operations would start this year.

Iran said Russian shipments would not stop the country from pursuing its own uranium-enrichment program.

Iran is under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment, saying the demand is politically tainted and illogical.

Iran has so far ruled out halting or limiting its nuclear work in exchange for trade and other incentives, insisting that it would continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

Iran currently suffers from an electricity shortage that has forced the country into adopting a rationing program by scheduling power outages – of up to two hours a day – across both urban and rural areas.

Iran plans to construct additional nuclear power plants to provide for the electricity needs of its growing population.

The Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog, however, continues snap inspections of Iranian nuclear sites and has reported that all “declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities”.

Moscow has also underlined its determination to press ahead with its nuclear cooperation with the Islamic Republic on the grounds that Iran is legally entitled to use nuclear technology for electricity generation and other peaceful applications.

The United States and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.

Iran has repeatedly said that it considers its nuclear case closed after it answered the UN agency’s questions about the history of its nuclear program.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have drawn up an incentives package, offering the country political and economic incentives in return for Iran renouncing its right to uranium enrichment on its soil.

The United States is seeking to convince other world powers to impose a fourth round of UN sanctions on Iran for failing to give a clear response to the incentives package.

Iran has stressed that it would provide a clear response to the package after western powers remove certain ambiguities existing in the offer.

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