'We're done:' Iran reactor ready despite 2-year delay claim

Friday, October 15, 2004

MOSCOW Iran and Russia said they have completed construction of the nuclear power reactor at Bushehr.

The announcement came less than two months after Iran said Bushehr would not begin operations until late 2006, three years behind schedule. At the time, officials said Bushehr a project estimated at $1 billion was delayed by the Russian revision of the original nuclear reactor design, drafted by the German firm Simens in the 1970s.

But officials from both countries said on Thursday that Russia completed the construction of Bushehr and the installation of the first 1,000-megawatt light-water reactor unit. They said the key remaining task was for Russia to supply Iran with the nuclear fuel required to operate Bushehr, Middle East Newsline reported.

"We're done," a spokesman for Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency, known as Rosatom, said. "What remains is for the Russian specialists to assemble the unit's control and safety equipment."

Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Iran and assured his hosts that his government would provide the nuclear fuel for Bushehr, a move that has been delayed because of Iran's refusal to bear the costs of returning the spent nuclear fuel to Moscow. Earlier, a senior Iranian official said nuclear fuel deliveries must begin seven months before the facility was scheduled to launch operations.

"All we need to do now is work out an agreement on sending the spent fuel back to Russia," the Russian Atomic Energy Agency spokesman was quoted by Itar-Tass agency as saying.

The spokesman made his remarks after Rosatom director Alexander Rumyantsev met a key Iranian parliamentarian to discuss Bushehr. Iran has long complained of delays in the project, and in a briefing in August Mehran Zia Sheikholeslami, head of technical operations at Bushehr, said Teheran was pressing Moscow to meet Iran's latest deadline for the start of the facility's full operations, October 2006.

The Iranian who met Rumyantsev was identified as the chairman of parliament's Foreign Policy and National Security Committee, Alaeddin Borudjerdi. Borudjerdi agreed that Russia was required to do little more than provide the nuclear fuel for Bushehr.

"The [nuclear fuel] agreement is practically ready," Borudjerdi said. "If the experts agree on a few remaining commercial matters, it could be signed in November."

Rumyantsev could visit Iran in December to conclude the nuclear fuel agreement, officials said. They said Russia would first wait for the meeting of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Nov. 25, meant to determine whether Teheran was honoring its pledge to cooperate with the international community regarding Teheran's nuclear program.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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