Iran Nuclear Plant Staff to Double

State nuclear contractor Atomstroiexport said Thursday that it would double staff at Iran's first nuclear power station over the next year, as Moscow prepares to start up the reactor at the plant, RIA-Novosti reported.

Russia has already delivered nuclear fuel under a $1 billion contract to build the Bushehr plant, on the Gulf coast in southwest Iran, and Iranian officials say the reactor is likely to be started up in mid-2008.

Atomstroiexport, which is building the plant, will boost staff by about 1,000 from 1,300 at present, RIA reported, quoting the firm's chief, Sergei Shmatko.

"In the next few weeks 200 to 300 specialists will come to the station," RIA-Novosti quoted Shmatko as saying in Bushehr. "In the course of the year we plan to boost the number of specialists by 1,000 people."

He said Russia and Iran would create a joint venture to run the Bushehr plant.

Russia made a contract to build the plant in 1995 on the base of an earlier project begun in the 1970s by German firm Siemens. Siemens' project was disrupted by Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution and the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

Russia and the United States say the plant means Tehran does not need to enrich uranium itself. But Iranian officials say it is their right to have a domestic enrichment program.

n Atomstroiexport may also take part in a tender to build a nuclear power plant in Finland, Shmatko said Thursday, Interfax reported.