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27 Jul, 2007 10:37

New date cited for Bushehr plant completion

The Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran will be completed in early 2008, according to Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Kislyak. The date contradicts an earlier statement by the head of the Russian contractor Energoprogress.

The $US 1 BLN project, supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has been postponed several times since the construction started. A deal was struck with Russia in 1995 to supply a light water reactor for the plant.

The project was initially scheduled to be completed in 2006. But the work did not go as planned and during a visit by the Iranian delegation to Moscow in September 2007, the sides agreed to postpone the launch date for about a year.

However, in February Russia said Iran's failure to finance the construction on time was again causing major setbacks to the project.

Russia's Federal Nuclear Energy Agency, Rosatom, said the insufficient funding by the Iranian side is shifting the launch to next year.

Russian officials reiterated many times that it is financial matters delaying the launch – and not political ones, as some experts believe.

Svetlana Babaeva, a RIA News Agency journalist pointed out that “Moscow has stressed many times, and continues to stress, that every country should have a right to a peaceful programme. But at the same time, Moscow understands very well that sometime, in the future, it may be a kind of a threat also to Russia. And President Putin has repeated that again. He carefully reminded us of that several times.”

Russia is fully determined to bring the construction in Bushehr to its logical end by putting into operation the nuclear power station. The question which delayed the commissioning of the Bushehr station is of economic and technical rather than of political nature,

Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister

The Bushehr project has been the focus of political debate in the UN Security Council ever since the construction started.

Western countries have demanded the project be suspended fearing that Iran may use the plant's capabilities to build a nuclear bomb. Russia insists that is impossible, and says that the plant is for civilian use only.

The starting date for the Bushehr plant is still unclear; meanwhile, Iran says the construction is almost over.

“The process of building the Bushehr plant is 93.6% finished, and it will be ready to go on line after nuclear fuel is delivered from Russia. The plant should be launched on schedule in September-October of this year,” Mahmoud Jafari, Iranian Co-Chair of the Bushehr project, said.