An Iranian security guard stands in front of the Bushehr nuclear power plant
Russia will begin to load fuel into the reactor at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power station on August 21, a spokesman for Russia’s state atomic corporation said on Friday.
The spokesman said that loading the reactor with fuel would be a key step towards starting up the reactor at the Islamic Republic’s first nuclear power plant, though the reactor would not be considered operational from that date.
“The fuel will be loaded on Aug 21,” Rosatom spokesmen Sergei Novikov said by telephone.
“This is the start of the physical launch (of the reactor).”
According to the Interfax agency, Novikov will be travel to Iran on that date in order to attend a ceremony marking the arrival of the fuel.
ITAR-TASS news agency reported earlier that the reactor would be started up on August 21, citing a statement posted on the website operated by Russia’s state nuclear corporation.
The statement was soon withdrawn from the site and no correction was immediately issued.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on March 18 that Russia planned to start up the reactor at the Bushehr plant in the summer of 2010.
The plant had initially been slated to go on stream in 2007, but there were a number of delays over delayed payments by Iran, followed by the protracted controversy between Tehran and the international community over the Iranian nuclear program.
Russia has approved the UN Security Council sanctions against Iran in the nuclear dispute, but has also sharply criticized the even tougher sanctions which the United States and European Union additionally imposed.
Despite concern in the West over Iran’s nuclear program, the light-water project in Bushehr is tolerated due to Russia’s involvement and guarantees that nuclear fuel for the plant will be delivered from, and the nuclear waste returned to, Russia.
Tehran says that its nuclear projects are just for civilian purposes while the West is concerned that Iran is clandestinely pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
The Bushehr facility has a long history going back to the 1970s and the previous Iranian regime under the Shah. Then, work began at the site by the German power engineering firm Kraftwerk Union.
But the project was interrupted after the Islamic revolution toppled the Shah in 1979 and the site was dormant for more than a decade until, in the 1990s, Russia and Iran reached an agreement for the plant to be completed using Russian nuclear technology.
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