Iran to fire up first nuclear power plant next week

Aug 13th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Featured

TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran is to launch its first nuclear power reactor next week, the Islamic republic and Russia which helped build the plant said on Friday after years of delays to the highly sensitive project.

“We are preparing to transfer the fuel inside the plant next week… Then we will need seven to eight days to transfer it to the reactor (core),” said Iran’s atomic energy chief, Ali Akbar Salehi.

“On August 21, the fuel will be transferred inside the building in which the engine” of the Bushehr power station in southern Iran is located, he said, quoted by Iran’s Fars news agency.

Salehi added that Iran had invited inspectors from the Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to attend the launch ceremony.

“The fuel is sealed and IAEA inspectors must be present to remove them,” he said.

The rest of the fuel will be transferred to the reactor’s core on September 5, Salehi said, according to Mehr.

It would take two more weeks for the reactor to reach 50 percent of its power generation capacity, allowing it then to be linked to the national electricity grid, the atomic chief added.

“It will take six to seven months to reach the maximum power level of the plant,” he said.

Salehi’s comments came soon after Russian atomic agency Rosatom said the Bushehr plant would be formally launched on August 21, although Rosatom officials gave a slower operational startup schedule.

“The fuel will be charged in the reactor on August 21. From this moment, Bushehr will be considered a nuclear installation,” Rosatom spokesman Sergei Novikov said. “This can be considered as the physical launch.”

Russia has been building the plant since the mid-1990s but the project was marred by delays, and the issue is hugely delicate amid Tehran’s standoff with the West and Israel over its nuclear programme.

The UN Security Council hit Tehran with a fourth set of sanctions on June 9 over its nuclear programme, and the United States and European Union followed up with tougher punitive measures targeting Iran’s banking and energy sectors.

Officials in Russia said the Bushehr launch ceremony would be attended by the head of Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, his Iranian counterpart Salehi and possibly the Russian energy minister.

Ties between Moscow and Tehran have cooled in recent months as Russia toughened its line on Iran’s nuclear drive, but Prime Minister Vladimir Putin this year confirmed the plant would start up in the summer.

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