Russia's nuclear chief said Monday that a Russian-built nuclear plant in Iran would be commissioned in the autumn of 2007, news agencies reported.
Federal Nuclear Agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko told reporters in Vienna that the start-up of the nuclear reactor at the Busheir nuclear plant would take place in September 2007, and that the plant would come online in November 2007, Interfax and ITAR-Tass reported.
The United States has long objected to Russia's US $800 million deal to build the Busheir plant, saying it could be used by Iran to produce fissionable material for weapons. Russia eventually worked out a deal with Iran for all the plant's spent fuel to be sent to Russia, eliminating the possibility that Iran could reprocess it for weapons.
However, Iran has resisted Russia's proposal to conduct all of Iran's uranium enrichment on Russian soil.
Kiriyenko said he would discuss plans for completing the Busheir nuclear plant with Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who was set to visit Moscow next week, Interfax said.
Kiriyenko also promoted President Vladimir Putin's proposal for the creation of an international system of uranium enrichment centers, saying such a facility could be ready to operate in Russia next year, Russian news agencies reported.
"I believe that in 2007 a center could certainly be able to begin full-scale operations," Interfax quoted Kiriyenko as saying.
The Russian proposal could boost non-proliferation efforts by controlling the level to which uranium used by countries without nuclear weapons can be enriched, while granting nations that want nuclear energy access to the enriched uranium needed for nuclear power plants.
Russia's proposal to break the deadlock in the Iranian nuclear dispute by conducting all of Iran's uranium enrichment has been kept at arm's length by Teheran, but support among other countries for Russia conducting enrichment appears strong.
The proposal for an enrichment center on Russian territory fits in with the Russian nuclear agency's plans to expand the use of nuclear power at home.
Kiriyenko said in Vienna that Russia plans to increase the proportion of electric power produced by nuclear plants from 16 percent today to 25-30 percent by 2030, adding at least 2 billion watts a year of nuclear-produced electricity starting next year, ITAR-Tass reported.
Last week, Kiriyenko said Russia will increase spending on uranium extraction tenfold over the next two years.