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. Iran nuclear plant to start in summer 2008: FM
TEHRAN, Dec 30 (AFP) Dec 30, 2007
Iran on Sunday insisted its first nuclear power station would be launched in the summer of 2008, despite the plant's Russian constructors saying it will not go on line 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 1,000-megawatt plant in the southern city of Bushehr. Moscow has also agreed to deliver the nuclear fuel required by the facility.

A spokeswoman for the Russian contractor Atomstroiexport said earlier this month that it would take at least a year to launch 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.

The Bushehr project has suffered a series of delays since it was started in the 1970s under the ousted shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi using engineers from German engineering firm Siemens.

It was shelved in the first decade after the 1979 Islamic revolution but then resurrected in 1995 when Russia agreed to build and fuel the plant. Even then the deadline for the station's launch was repeatedly put back.

But now it appears the plant is finally on the verge of completion.

Mottaki's comments came after a second consignment of fuel for the plant arrived in Iran from Russia on Friday following the delivery of the first consignment on December 17.

"The fuel delivery will be completed in eight stages," added Mottaki.

"Then the ground will be prepared for the injection of the fuel and the launching of the Bushehr nuclear plant by next summer, at the latest according to the contract. This will be half the capacity of the plant," he said.

Russia is pressing on with the completion of the power 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.

But Iran insists it has every right to uranium enrichment and needs to master the process to make its own nuclear fuel for the home-built atomic power plants it is planning to construct in the future.

Energy Minister Parviz Fattah said Iran has already started building the planned nuclear power plant of Darkhoyen in the southwestern Khuzestan province, the only such project whose location has been made public.

"Domestic specialists will build the 360-megawatt nuclear reactor under the supervision of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation," state television quoted him as saying.

"As Iran has a lot of experience in hydroelectric and steam plants, the nuclear plants can be constructed using domestic capabilities."

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