Bushehr Will Not Start Until Late 2008

Iran's first, Russian-built nuclear power plant will not start operating before late 2008 because the state-run company building the plant is waiting for deliveries, the company said Thursday.

"I can say with certainty that the plant won't be launched before late 2008," Sergei Shmatko, the head of the Atomstroiexport company building the plant in the southern port of Bushehr, said on a trip to China, Russian media reported.

Atomstroiexport needs equipment from suppliers outside of Russia and will also conduct fuel tests before the Bushehr generator starts up, company spokeswoman Irina Yesipova said Thursday.

The company previously said deliveries of fuel would be complete in February 2008 and construction of the plant six months later.

"There's a load of work to be done, and we can't just rush through all the technical steps,'' Yesipova said by telephone.

A senior Iranian nuclear official, Mohammad Saeedi, said this week that Bushehr would generate power at full capacity in about a year.

Russia on Monday made its first shipment of nuclear fuel to the Bushehr plant, paving the way for the long-delayed startup of the 1,000-megawatt light-water reactor. Russian officials have said fuel deliveries would begin about half a year before Bushehr was expected to go into service, but they remained coy about the precise launch date.

The United States on Monday said it supported Russia providing enriched uranium to Iran so long as Moscow retrieves the used reactor fuel for reprocessing, as stipulated in an agreement between Russia and Iran.

Although initially opposed to Russian participation in building and supplying Bushehr, the United States and its allies agreed to remove any reference to the project in the first set of UN Security Council sanctions passed a year ago, in exchange for Moscow's support for those penalties.

The United States has been pushing for a third round of United Nations sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. Moscow has joined the calls for Tehran to halt its enrichment effort but opposed new sanctions, saying they would only strengthen Iran's resistance.

The push for new sanctions became more difficult earlier this month with the release of a new U.S. intelligence report that concluded Iran had halted its nuclear weapons development program in 2003 and had not resumed it through at least the middle of this year.

AP, Bloomberg