Iran`s Bushehr nuclear plant to launch by January

Iran`s first N-power plant will become operational in the next two months.

Updated: Nov 27, 2010, 20:59 PM IST

Tehran: Iran`s first nuclear power plant will become operational in the next two months, the country`s nuclear chief said on Saturday, just before possible talks with major powers over Tehran`s nuclear ambitions.

Ali Akbar Salehi said the move showed Iran`s nuclear plans were on track, state television reported.

"The Bushehr power plant will start operating in the next two months," Salehi said. "All fuel rods are in the core of the reactor and we should just wait for gradual heating of the water inside the core followed by some tests."

Iran began loading fuel into the core of the Russian-built Bushehr plant in October as the last major step toward realizing its stated goal of becoming a peaceful user of nuclear energy which is questioned by the West.

The fuel rods were transported into the reactor building in August but they were not inserted into its core and the plant`s start-up was delayed due to what were described as minor technical problems.

The United State and its allies fear Iran is seeking to develop nuclear bombs under cover of a civilian program. Iran says it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity.

Washington says it has no problem with the Russian-built Bushehr plant but does with Iran`s other nuclear sites where they say weapons work may be going on.

The 1,000-megawatt plant will be connected into the national grid in a month or two, Salehi said.

Uranium enrichment

A UN Security Council resolution passed in June, imposing a fourth round of sanctions, renewed a call on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, something Tehran has explicitly refused to do, saying such activity is its right under international law.

Experts say firing up the $1-billion Bushehr plant will not take Iran any closer to building a nuclear bomb since Russia will supply the enriched uranium for the reactor and take away spent fuel that could be used to make weapons-grade plutonium.

The Islamic state has agreed to meet with a representative of the six big powers for the first time in more than a year. Both sides have expressed readiness to resume discussions on December 5 but they have yet to agree on a venue.

The talks between Iran`s nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton may be followed by more meetings to halt a downward spiral in ties.

Ashton represents the P5+1 powers – UN Security Council permanent members Russia, the United States, China, France and Britain, plus Germany.

Salehi said Iran`s stockpile of Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU) had increased. "Iran now has produced more than 35 Kg of 20 percent nuclear fuel," he said.

A tentative agreement last year under which Iran would send out 1,200 kg of LEU in return for its Tehran Research Reactor fuel fell apart after Tehran backed away from its terms.

In February, Iran started producing 20 percent enriched material itself.

Western diplomats say Iran must now send out much more LEU under any revised deal to reflect the growing size of its stockpile, a demand Iran rejects.

Bureau Report