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Iran and Russia working out 'technical details' of Bushehr plant

Tehran, Dec 11, IRNA -- Tehran and Moscow are working out technical details of an agreement to bring a nuclear power plant in the Iranian port city of Bushehr on line in 2006, the Chairman of the Russian Federation Council, Sergei Mironov, said in Tehran on Saturday.

The power plant, the subject of an international media hype, has seen several dates for its operation pushed back from its initial target of 2003.

In August, Iran said the plant would become operational in October 2006, a year behind the schedule.

Mironov, who arrived in Tehran Saturday for a one-day visit, stressed Iran's right to peaceful nuclear technology in the framework of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of which the country is a signatory.

Once operational, the Bushehr power plant is projected to generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity, 6,000 megawatts less than the target which Iran has set to produce by 2021 in nuclear power plants.

But, its construction has been dogged by a whole slew of 'complexities', primarily the deal on the return of spent fuel and its costs.

This has raised the ire of certain circles inside Iran amid suspicion that Russia could be trying to use the project as a bargaining chip in its political horse-trading with the United States.

A senior Iranian official sent a veiled warning to Russia recently, making it clear that the Iranians would judge the Russians by their performance in Bushehr.

Washington has been pressuring Moscow to pull out of the project, alleging that Iran could use it as a front to build an atomic bomb.

Russia, instead, has repeatedly shrugged off US pressures and vowed to continue its cooperation with Iran as long as the country complies with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Moscow also opposes US efforts to report Tehran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

Meanwhile, several Iranian officials have come forth to stress that the most sticking point in the two countries' cooperation is their differences over the costs.

They have stressed that a contract for the return of the spent fuel has been finalized.

The two countries have set the deadline for Russia's delivery of nuclear fuel for the power plant to Iran at the end of 2005, according to the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Assadollah Sabouri.

Construction of the Bushehr power plant has already cost Iran billions of dollars. The German firm Siemens and its subsidiary Kraftwerke Union (KWU) began work on the plant in 1974, but stopped following the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

At that time, Unit-One was 90 percent complete, with 60 percent of the equipment installed, and Unit-Two was 50 percent complete.

During the 1980 to 1988 imposed war with Iraq, the Bushehr reactors were repeatedly targeted by Iraq, which bombed the plant at least six times.

Starting in the mid-1980s, Iran approached several nuclear suppliers about the possibility of completing the Bushehr-1 reactor.

A consortium of West German, Spanish and Argentine companies bid to complete it in the late 1980s, but the deal was never completed owing to US pressure.

In a similar deal, Iran signed a protocol in February 1990 with Spanish companies to complete the plant and supply the reactor's fuel, but they later canceled the deal citing US political pressure.

... Payvand News - 12/11/04 ... --

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