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. Iran plans 'pre-commissioning' of nuclear plant
TEHRAN, Feb 22 (AFP) Feb 22, 2009
Iran will this week "pre-commission" its first nuclear power plant, which is being built by Russia in the southern city of Bushehr, local news agencies reported on Sunday.

"In the presence of the heads of the atomic energy organisations of Iran and Russia, the pre-commissioning of Bushehr power plant will be carried out on Wednesday," the ISNA news agency said, quoting Iran Atomic Energy Organisation spokesman Mohsen Delaviz.

It did not say exactly what the pre-commissioning of the much-delayed plant would entail.

Russia took over construction of the plant in 1994 but completion has been delayed due to a number of factors, including the controversy over Iran's nuclear programme.

Earlier this month, the chief of Russia's state nuclear federation, Sergei Kiriyenko, said that his visit to Iran would be "to get acquainted with the works at the plant."

He also said that a "technical launch" of the plant was possible before the end of this year as everything was going according to plan, unless there are "unforseen circumstances since we have to integrate all the equipment."

The nuclear fuel supplied by Moscow for the plant is sealed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to the latest report by the UN body released on Thursday.

According to the report, Iran has informed the agency that the loading of the fuel in the plant will take place only in the second quarter of 2009.

All the main equipment at Bushehr has been installed by Russian contractor Atomstroiexport.

The start-up of the plant, as and when it happens, will be a leap forward in Iran's plan to develop nuclear technology.

Tehran's ambitious nuclear drive has triggered a row with Western governments which suspect it is seeking to acquire a warhead, a charge Iran strongly denies.

Western powers fear Iran could use uranium enrichment technology to make a nuclear bomb but Tehran insists it wants solely to generate electricity for a growing population whose fossil fuels will eventually run out.

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