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Iran: Russian N-fuel for atomic plant due in months

Al Jazeera | June 23, 2005

Iran’s nuclear program is crucial for the country to meet increased energy demands

First delivery of Russian nuclear fuel for Iran's first nuclear power reactor will take place within months, a senior Iranian atomic energy official said.

The 1,000 MW reactor in the southwestern Iranian city of Bushehr is 84 percent complete and commissioning would start by the end of 2006, Asadollah Saboury, Atomic Energy Organization Vice President said during a visit by journalists to the plant, construction of which first started in the 1970s.

"The site is 84% finished and will be completed towards the end of 2006," Assadollah Saboury told journalists.

"The fuel is in Russia and ready to be transported, and it will be delivered soon but the exact date will remain confidential," he added.

Asked when will the fuel arrive in Iran, he replied: "God Willing, in a few months!"

Iran and Russia signed a landmark fuel accord earlier this year, paving the way for the firing up of the station in southern Iran, a project the United States claims is being used as a guise for weapons development.

According to the deal, which capped an 800-million-dollar contract to build and bring the Bushehr plant on line, Russia, which has been facing mounting U.S. pressure to halt nuclear cooperation with Iran, will provide the reactor, the first of what Iran hopes will be up to 20 similar reactors, with needed nuclear fuel on condition that Iran sends back spent fuel.

Sabouri asserted the arrangement left no room for Iran diverting the fuel to military purposes.

"Bushehr is entirely under the supervision of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). The fuel will be verified before it is sent to Iran and the IAEA inspectors will be here to open the seals," he said.

Washington, backed by Israel, has repeatedly claimed that the Islamic Republic is covertly trying to build atomic weapons, charges Tehran denies.

Russian diplomats say the United States has been trying to halt Moscow's cooperation with Iran's nuclear ambitions "on a daily basis" -- but Russia is set to build a second reactor at Bushehr along with plants at other locations.

Iran’s nuclear program is crucial for the country to meet increased energy demands from a burgeoning population.

Engineers at Bushehr plant have pointed out machinery originally supplied by a German contractor more than 20 years ago when the plant was built before the 1979 Islamic revolution. Russia later took over helping build it.

"We used some German equipment in the new design," Ismail Ibrahimzadeh, an engineer who worked on the site for nine years, told reporters.

"It is the plan of our country to obtain the technology for producing fuel," Saboury said.

Under an deal between Tehran and the European Union, trying to persuade Iran suspend its nuclear program, the Islamic republic agreed to suspend all activities related to uranium enrichment. Yet it asserts it will never give up its plans to develop a full nuclear fuel cycle, and warning that the suspension would not last much longer.

Asked how long it would take Iran to start making enriched uranium once the suspension was lifted, Saboury said: "Considering the existing situation, I can tell you (it would be) very few years. It is not in the range of months."



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