Russia to launch Iran's first nuke plant

MOSCOW, Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Russia's nuclear energy agency Rosatom saidThursday it will launch Iran's first nuclear power plant next weekafter years of delay.
Russia will begin loading uranium-packed fuel rods into the Bushehrreactor in southwestern Iran on Aug. 21, Rosatom spokesman SergeiNovikov said Friday. The process will take two to three weeks and isconsidered a key step toward operationalization of the reactor thatdates back to the 1970s.
"International society supports such peaceful projects such asBushehr because everybody understands that you can't use nuclear powerplant in your hypothetical military program," Novikov told televisionchannel Russia Today. "It's true that there are two elements of doublepurpose -- enrichment and spent fuel management. But both elements aretaken out of Iranian responsibility because we are going to supply withnuclear fuel Bushehr … for all its lifetime and then we will take thespent fuel back for processing in Russia."
Russia insists that the procedure of firing up Bushehr will becarried out under the auspice of the United Nations nuclear watchdog,the International Atomic Energy Agency. A team of IAEA safety expertsin February and March reviewed Iran's safety regulations with regard toBushehr, in a mission that included a visit to the reactor. Russia'sAtomstroyexport, which has completed the long delayed plant, tested thereactor in July. When the sealed Russian fuel will be opened on Aug.21, IAEA officers will be present, Novikov said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a visit to Moscow inMarch warned against starting up Bushehr because of allegations thatIran runs a secret nuclear weapons program.
The European Union last month imposed sanctions against Iran in abid to increase pressure on Tehran to halt its controversial uraniumenrichment program and return to the negotiation table. The measurestarget the Iranian financial and trade sectors as well as the energyindustry and came on top of a fourth round of sanctions imposed by theUnited Nations in June.
Iran denies Western allegations that its nuclear program is aimed atbuilding nuclear weapons, vowing instead that it is for civil andenergy purposes only. So far, Western sanctions have failed to pressureIran into halting nuclear enrichment and cooperating with the West.Tehran argues it has the right to pursue nuclear energy independentfrom international oversight.
At Bushehr, this Iranian dream could soon come true. The sanctionsdon't affect Bushehr because the reactor does not contain sensitivetechnology and is run under Russian supervision.
"The Iranians have been able to go ahead with Bushehr because it'sclean," an unnamed nuclear expert told British newspaper The Guardian.
Bushehr's construction was begun in 1975 by a joint venture of theGerman companies Siemens and AEG Telefunken, but halted after the1979Islamic Revolution and the subsequent U.S. Embassy siege in Tehran.
In the 1990s, Russia signed an agreement with Iran to complete thepower plant. Its launch ceremony scheduled for Aug. 21 will be attendedby Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko and Iranian Vice President, Ali AkbarSalehi, who also heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

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