Schedule Fixed for Iranian Atomic Plant

ReutersKiriyenko gesturing at a meeting with Mottaki in Moscow on Thursday. Iran is offering to set up a joint gas venture.
Russia and Iran have settled all differences over the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power station and agreed on a timetable for its completion, the Russian contractor building the station said Thursday.

"We have resolved all the problems with the Iranians," said Sergei Shmatko, president of state-controlled Atomstroiexport, which is building the Bushehr plant on the Persian Gulf.

"We have agreed with our Iranian colleagues a time frame for completing the plant and we will make an announcement at the end of December," Shmatko told reporters.

Russia, which has used the Bushehr plant as a lever in relations with Tehran, has repeatedly put back the startup date for the plant, citing millions of dollars in delayed payments from Iran. Iran always said it was up to date with payments.

Shmatko said those problems were all resolved, but did not give any details.

According to Russian forecasts, the first reactor at the Bushehr plant could be started up in 2008 and nuclear fuel would have to be shipped to Bushehr six months ahead of time.

"We absolutely, definitely intend to build the Bushehr atomic power station and intend definitely to deliver the fuel to the plant," said Shmatko, who added that Russia and Iran might form a joint venture to run the Bushehr station. He gave no time frame for the fuel delivery.

At a meeting Thursday with Sergei Kiriyenko, head of state nuclear corporation Rosatom, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki proposed forming a joint venture to develop gas in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia, Mottaki said afterward.

Russia could start shipping fuel to Bushehr at the end of December or early January so that the nuclear station could begin operating in October, Interfax reported.

Denis Flory, nuclear counselor at the French Embassy in Moscow, said the decision to start deliveries had been made by President Vladimir Putin about a month ago, Interfax reported.

Iran has also offered to form consortiums with Russia in the power and transportation industries and create a joint investment fund to finance the projects, Mottaki said, RIA-Novosti reported. Kiriyenko, who co-chairs the countries' intergovernmental commission, said that cooperation deals on aviation and space were being prepared, RIA-Novosti reported.