TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran on Sunday insisted its first nuclear power station would be launched in the summer of 2008, despite statements by the plant’s Russian constructors it will not go online until the end of the year.
“The Bushehr nuclear power station will launch at a capacity of 50 percent next summer,” said Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, quoted by the state news agency IRNA.
A Russian contractor is finishing the construction of the much-delayed project in the southern city of Bushehr, which finally appears to be nearing completion after a history of delays since work started in the 1970s.
Mottaki’s comments came after a second consignment of fuel for the Bushehr nuclear plant arrived in Iran from Russia on Friday following the delivery of the first consignment on December 17.
But a spokeswoman for the Russian contractor Atomstroiexport said earlier this month that it would take at least a year to start the power station.
“We can predict that the Bushehr station will be launched no earlier than the end of 2008 due to the current situation,” Irina Yesipova said on December 20.
Russia is pressing on with the completion of the station despite Western concerns about Iran’s insistence on using uranium enrichment to make its own nuclear fuel for use in future home-built power plants.
Western powers fear Iran could use uranium enrichment technology to make a nuclear bomb but Tehran insists it only wants to generate electricity for a growing population whose fossil fuels will eventually run out.
Moscow has echoed US calls that Tehran should freeze enrichment in line with UN Security Council demands and said that Iran has no economic need to make its own fuel at the moment.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week Russia was actively seeking to persuade Iran to halt enrichment in return for full negotiations with world powers, including the United States, over its nuclear drive.