Russian fuel to help start Iran nuclear site
By Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran
Published: August 15 2010 19:25 | Last updated: August 15 2010 19:25
Iran’s first nuclear power plant will start generating electricity by the end of this year, after more than three decades of delays in construction, according to a state nuclear official.
Russia announced on Friday that it would deliver 82 tonnes of nuclear fuel to Iran’s Bushehr plant reactor on August 21, ending the test phase of the installation and officially making it a nuclear power site. Iranian officials hope the plant will formally open a few weeks later.
The managing director of state-owned Iran Nuclear Power Plants Production and Development Company, Mohammad Ahmadian, said on Sunday that the plant – with a capacity of 1,000MW – would start generating power by the winter.
He added that the nuclear fuel delivery did not mean that Bushehr plant would be fully operational yet.
Mr Ahmadian said that while Russia was ready to provide Bushehr with fuel for 10 years, Iran might not be able to depend on that because delays in construction proved “western countries cannot be trusted”.
Donya-e-Eqtesad, a conservative daily newspaper, on Sunday wrote that Bushehr was “only a small part of” Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“What Iran has to insist [in future negotiations with western countries] is that the number of nuclear plants and the amount of nuclear fuel [produced domestically] are questions of Iran’s sovereignty which cannot be discussed in any talks,” it said.
The Bushehr project started in late 1970s under the regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi with the help of Siemens. The German company ended its co-operation after the Islamic revolution. Iran resumed the project a decade later and signed a $1bn contract with Russia in 1995.
The Islamic regime has so far faced four sets of United Nations sanctions for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.
The most recent sanctions were agreed following a US-Russian understanding that Bushehr would be exempted from the measures against Tehran’s nuclear programme. In addition, Tehran has agreed with Moscow that it will return spent uranium fuel to Russia.
Western countries, though highly sensitive to the Bushehr project, have praised its potential as an example of peaceful power production.
Robert Gibbs, White House spokesman, appeared on Friday to come close to endorsing the project, which he said “proves to the world that if the Iranians are sincere in a peaceful programme, their needs can be met without undertaking its own enrichment programme.”
Additional reporting by Daniel Dombey