(Reuters) - Iran’s first nuclear power plant is set to be launched by late September following the completion of an important final test at the Russian-built reactor, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization said on Wednesday.
The West suspects Tehran of seeking to produce its own nuclear bomb and has been critical of Russia’s involvement in building Iran’s first nuclear power plant. Russia says it is purely civilian and cannot be used for any weapons programme.
Here are some key facts about Bushehr:
* The Bushehr plant is on the Gulf coast in southwest Iran. It is Iran’s first nuclear power plant. * The Bushehr nuclear facility is associated with the city of the same name, but is actually located near Halileh about 12 km (8 miles) south of Bushehr proper. The site is also the location of Iran’s Nuclear Energy College.
* Construction of two pressurized water nuclear reactors began in 1974 with the help of German contractor Siemens and French scientists. The Bushehr I reactor was 85 percent complete and the Bushehr II reactor was partially complete prior to the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
* With the fall of the shah in the 1979 revolution, the project was halted. The site was then damaged during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war and equipment looted.
* The project was later revived with Russian help, but Russia has blamed project delays on problems with receiving payment from Iran. Current plans are for one reactor to be launched.
* Bushehr will have an operating capacity of 1,000 megawatts. Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil producer, has said it wants to build a network of nuclear power plants with a capacity of 20,000 megawatts by 2020 to enable it to export more of its oil and gas.
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS: * Russia said in January 2010 it would finish building the 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plant this year that it agreed to build 15 years ago. Delays have haunted the $1 billion project and diplomats have said Moscow has used it as a lever in relations with Tehran. * Testing of the leak-tight enclosure system at Bushehr nuclear power plant has been completed, the reactor’s Russian builder announced in February. This system will prevent the release of radiation into the environment in the event of any failure in the primary circuit, as well as protecting primary equipment from external impacts.
* Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced the startup in March 2010, but visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said such a decision would be “premature” without Iranian assurances on its nuclear programme, which the West fears is aimed at producing atomic weapons.
— Iran has received nuclear fuel for the plant from Russia and will have to return all spent fuel rods to Russia — an arrangement that had eased U.S. concerns that Iran could use it for weapons.
* Switching on the Bushehr plant could still dismay some in the United States, Israel and Europe who are deeply suspicious of Iran’s intentions. Israel has expressed concern about the plant and has said that Iran could have a nuclear bomb by 2010.
Sources: Reuters/World Nuclear News
Writing by Dmitry Solovyov and David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit; Editing by Maria Golovnina