* Russia put up Iran's first reactor, at Bushehr
* Iran says must enrich uranium to fuel future power plants
* Big powers want Tehran to curb programme seen as bomb risk
DUBAI, June 24 Iran said on Tuesday it expected
to sign a deal with Russia in late August on the building of two
new 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactors in the Islamic Republic,
potentially boosting its case that it is refining uranium for
civilian energy, not atom bombs.
Russia is one of six world powers negotiating with Iran on a
long-term agreement to end a decade-old dispute over Tehran's
nuclear programme, which the country says is peaceful but the
West fears may be aimed at developing a nuclear arms capability.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's atomic energy
organisation, will go to Moscow to finalise the reactor contract
and construction may start early next year, according to the
official news agency IRNA.
There was no immediate comment from Russia.
Iran has long argued that it needs to enrich uranium - which
can have both civilian and military uses - to fuel a planned
network of atomic power stations and that any contract on new
reactors with Russia may help it back up its case.
But Russia - which built Iran's so far only nuclear reactor,
at Bushehr on the country's Gulf coast - is providing the
enriched fuel for that plant and may want to do that also for
any future facilities it will build in Iran.
The world powers - also including the United States, France,
Germany, Britain and China - want Iran to significantly scale
back its enrichment of uranium to deny it any capability to
quickly make bomb-grade fuels. Iran denies any such aims.
IRNA said senior Iranian and Russian nuclear energy
officials - including the deputy chief executive of state-owned
Rosatom, Nikolai Spassky - met in Tehran this week to discuss
commercial and technical details of the planned reactors.
Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for Iran's atomic energy
organisation, said the reactors would be built next to the first
unit of the Bushehr nuclear power plant.
"It is very likely the trip (Salehi's to Moscow) will take
place at the end of August," he said, adding that construction
of the reactors could start by the end of the Iranian year which
runs until March 2015.
Longstanding Western fears that the Bushehr project could
yield spent fuel of use in nuclear weapons - something it denies
it is seeking to do - receded after Iran promised to send the
material back to Russia.
Talks between Iran and the world powers will resume on July
2 in Vienna, with the sides aiming to clinch a deal ending the
nuclear stand-off by a self-imposed July 20 deadline.
(Reporting by Michelle Moghtader in Dubai and Fredrik Dahl in
Vienna; Editing by Mark Heinrich)