Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor_150.
(photo credit: Reuters)
TEHRAN - Iran's first nuclear power plant will be connected to the national grid at full capacity in the coming weeks, the head of the country's Atomic Energy Organization was quoted as saying by Iranian media on Sunday.
The Russian-built Bushehr plant is part of Iran's nuclear program which Western countries believe is an attempt to develop the technology needed to build nuclear weapons.
Iran maintains the program is purely for energy and medical requirements.
Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani told the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) the plant had generated 700 megawatts from early February and will produce electricity at its full capacity of 1,000 megawatts early in the Iranian new year, which begins on March 21.
"Nuclear power with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts will be linked to the national power grid early next year," Abbasi-Davani said. "In order to realize that capacity, there will be various tests conducted at 75 percent capacity."
The plant was built by Russian contractors after the Iranian and Russian government signed an agreement in 1995. It was due to be completed several years ago but the plans were beset by technological and financial problems, as well as political pressure from the United States.
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Iran said on Sunday it had not blocked an oil shipment to Greece, denying earlier reports it had done so in retaliation to the EU phasing in a ban on its key export, the Iranian Student's News Agency (ISNA) reported.
"There has been no change in Iran's oil shipment to Greece or any other country. No changes in our shipment schedule," said Pirouz Mousavi, managing director of the Iranian Oil Terminals Co.
Earlier, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency said Tehran had refused shipment of 500,000 destined for Greek refiner Hellenic Petroleum, but a Hellenic official denied it.
"That has nothing to do with us ... all supplies from Iran have been processed normally," the official told Reuters.
The European Union decided in January to stop importing Iranian crude as of July 1, the latest in a series of international sanctions aimed at forcing Tehran to halt its sensitive nuclear work, as demanded by the UN Security Council.
Iran stopped selling crude to British and French companies last week after the oil minister said Tehran would cut oil exports to "some" European countries.
Brent crude surged to over $125 a barrel on Friday amid fears of an escalation of tensions after the UN nuclear agency issued a report showing Tehran had increased its most sensitive nuclear work which the West says is part of a weapons program, a charge Tehran denies.
The price of oil has increased over the fear of tightening supplies, including a threat from Tehran to close a vital oil shipping route, the Strait of Hormuz, if attacked.
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