Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Iran, Russia Sign Deal to Open Nuclear Plant

Ladane Nasseri, Bloomberg:
Iran's first nuclear power plant, a Russian-built project, will begin operating by September 2007, according to an agreement between the two countries.

The accord involving the facility near the southern city of Bushehr was announced today on Iranian state-run television after talks in Moscow between the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, Qolam-Reza Aqazadeh, his Russian counterpart, Sergei Kiriyenko, and Russian Security Council chief Igor Ivanov. Russia also will provide enriched uranium to fuel the plant before its completion.

``Russia guaranteed that it will complete the plant by September and deliver the nuclear fuel to Iran in March,'' Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of the Iranian agency, said in a television interview. READ MORE

The power station is part of Iran's nuclear program, which the U.S. and its allies accuse of being a cover for the development of weapons. Iran failed to meet the United Nations Security Council's Aug. 31 deadline to suspend uranium enrichment. Russia is among the council's five permanent members. A push for UN sanctions against Iran will begin early next month if the Islamic Republic maintains its stance.

Diplomatic efforts aimed at getting Iran to end production of the nuclear fuel have included a proposal for Iran's uranium to be enriched on Russian soil and then shipped to Iran. Enriched uranium can also be used in a nuclear weapon.

Iranian officials who are involved in talks with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana won't discuss the possibility of freezing uranium enrichment, an unidentified official from Iran's nuclear agency was cited as saying today by Agence France-Presse after the announcement of the Bushehr deal. The proposal was for a three-month freeze, AFP said.

Iran has so far paid Russia $1 billion to build the plant, capable of generating about 1,000 megawatts of electricity. Iran had urged Russia to complete construction of the nuclear plant following numerous delays. Iran plans to build 20 nuclear power plants with a combined capacity of 20,000 megawatts.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ladane Nasseri in Tehran at lnasseri@bloomberg.net.