Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russia puts off Bushehr NPP launch until fall 2008

RIA Novosti

25/07/2007 11:35 (Recasts headline, lead, adds details and background in paras 2-7)

MOSCOW, July 25 (RIA Novosti) - The Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran cannot be completed by the fall of 2007 as suggested by Iranian authorities and will only be commissioned a year later, a Russian subcontractor said.

Russia is building the $1-billion facility, Iran's first nuclear power plant, in the south of the country in accordance with a 1995 contract, and under UN supervision as Iran is under international scrutiny over its compliance with the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

"Today we can say with all certainty that it would be unrealistic to put Bushehr into operation this fall," Ivan Istomin, the head of the Energoprogress company, said dismissing a statement made earlier this month by Iran's Mahmoud Jafari, co-chairing the project, that the plant could be ready in three or four months.

"Even if Russia delivers the first portion of nuclear fuel to Bushehr tomorrow, it would be impossible to commission the facility in six months," Istomin said.

The project came under threat in February after Russia complained about shortfalls in funding. Moscow said Tehran had only covered 60% of the required funding by the fourth quarter of 2006, and had completely stopped payments in mid-January. Iran denied any funding problems and accused Russia of delays.

Istomin said his company could not assemble the key operating equipment for the plant due to the failure by third countries to supply the necessary components, and cited lack of Iran's funding as one of the reasons. "Suppliers no longer have confidence in the Bushehr project," he said.

The official said it would take six months to restore trust and agree on new supplies. "The real deadline for the physical launch of the power unit will therefore be put off until the fall of 2008," he said.

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