Russia: Operation of nuclear plant in Iran delayed to June 2004
Russia’s atomic energy ministry announced Monday that Iran's controversial Bushehr nuclear power plant would begin operating in June 2004, Interfax reported.
Russian experts will load nuclear fuel into the reactor in December 2003, Russian deputy atomic energy minister, Andrei Malyshev stated. The announcement marks yet another delay in the controversial project. In February this year, Moscow had promised that the plant would come on stream in September 2003.
Moscow is constructing the plant in the southern area of Iran despite strong objections from the United States, which fears that Tehran is using the project as a cover for efforts to develop weapons-grade plutonium. The Russian deputy minister insisted again that the project could not be misused for military ends, saying that experts from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) have confirmed the peaceful nature of the plant.
"The dual use of the reactors is out of the question. Experts from the IAEA have stated that there is no way to use them for military ends," Malyshev said. A Saint Petersburg-based company sent the main shell of the water-cooled nuclear reactor to Iran in November, and most of the other major components for the plant are to be delivered under terms of the 800-million-dollar contract within a period of a few months.
Russia recently sparked fury in Washington with an announcement that it intended to put up a second two-block Iranian nuclear power plant along with building three additional reactors at the Bushehr project. However, on Friday, Russia made an apparent concession to the United States by announcing that "political factors" would determine if it goes through with plans to vastly expand its nuclear cooperation with Tehran. (Albawaba.com)
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