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Russia hopeful to launch Bushehr NPP in Iran on time

RIA Novosti

22/12/2006 15:16 TEHRAN, December 22 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will complete construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran on time, provided all financial and technical commitments on the $1 billion the project are met, the country's top nuclear official said Friday.

Russia is building a reactor for Iran's first nuclear power plant under a $1 billion contract signed by Russia and Iran in 1995. The NPP, which is being constructed under the supervision of the IAEA, was originally scheduled for commissioning at the end of 2006.

Under the current schedule, the Bushehr NPP will be commissioned in September 2007, and power generation will begin two months later.

"Russia will meet all its commitments on the construction of the Bushehr NPP on schedule," Sergei Kiriyenko said. "Given timely financing and equipment deliveries from third parties, we do not see any obstacles to building the Bushehr nuclear power plant as scheduled."

A source in the Russian-Iranian intergovernmental commission said this week that Russia will pressure Iran to quickly resolve all outstanding financial issues over construction and equipment deliveries for the plant from third countries.

"Russia and [nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly] Atomstroyexport have made every effort over the past two months and increased the number of workers involved in the NPP's construction by 500, despite Iran's off-schedule financing of the project," the source said.

Another source said work on the plant has been hindered by management reshuffles and problems over equipment deliveries from third countries due to the unstable situation surrounding Iran.

Atomstroyexport head Sergei Shmatko earlier said Moscow could start preparing for fuel deliveries to the Bushehr NPP in January.

"Fuel deliveries to the Bushehr NPP require preparations three months in advance, and we plan to start the preparations in January 2007 to be able to deliver the fuel in March," he said.

The Bushehr facility has been a source of international dispute in the context of Iran's controversial nuclear ambitions, with the United States and other Western countries raising concerns that Iran may use the project to develop nuclear weapons.

Following Tehran's refusal to halt its uranium enrichment activities in exchange for a package of incentives, European countries proposed a draft UN Security Council resolution introducing sanctions, including restrictions on nuclear fuel deliveries to the Bushehr plant.

As a veto-wielding permanent Security Council member that has consistently defended Iran's right to generate nuclear power for civilian use, Russia spoke up against the European draft and proposed amendments to soften the document.

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