bushehr reactor 248.88.
(photo credit: )
Iranians and Russians are meeting this week to discuss the completion of the Bushehr nuclear reactor, which is being constructed with Russian assistance.
A delegation from the Russian power construction company Atomstroyexport will be heading to Iran to discuss the completion of the 1,000-megawatt power plant on Monday. Bushehr, an $800-million project, is Iran's first nuclear power plant and is being built on Iran's coast with Russian assistance under a 1995 contract.
The project was originally scheduled to be completed by the end of 2006, but it has suffered numerous delays because of disputes over payment. Russian MP Konstantin Beschetnov said it was still too early to determine the completion date, but assured it would be completed successfully, according to comments he made to the Russian RIA Novosti.
The Russian ambassador to Iran has given assurances that Bushehr will be supplying nuclear energy by early next year. Russia sent the eighth and final nuclear fuel shipment to Iran in January.
The latest development is a source of concern in the West, which is pressuring Iran to abandon its nuclear program. The reactor in Bushehr is also worrying the countries surrounding Iran. Iran's Sunni neighbors are unhappy with the prospect of Iran becoming a nuclear power in the region, and are concerned about the environmental damage and health hazards that could be inflicted in the case of a nuclear disaster.
Bushehr sits on the Iranian coast and the reactor, when completed, will be closer to countries like Bahrain, on the other side of the Gulf, than to the Iranian capital Teheran. There are concerns that a military standoff in the region could disrupt oil exports, especially since Iran has threatened any foreign attack on its nuclear installations would be met with its obstructing strategic waterways in the Gulf.
Iran is under international pressure to abandon its nuclear program for fear that it is secretly manufacturing a nuclear bomb. However, the oil-rich country insists the program is for peaceful purposes only, and defends its right to possess nuclear technology.
In addition to concerns over Russian-Iranian cooperation in Bushehr, the United States also fears Moscow will sell Iran the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile system. If Teheran acquired this system it would significantly boost its defenses and it would make any military strike on Iran more complicated.
Meanwhile, Teheran has announced plans to build a second nuclear reactor, with a view to constructing others. The new 360-megawatt nuclear power plant will be constructed in Darkhoin, in the southwestern Khuzestan province, and is likely to be an additional headache for world powers trying to force Teheran to abandon its nuclear program.
Several sets of economic sanctions imposed on Iran have so far not yielded positive results as far as the international community is concerned.
The United States has implied that a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities cannot be ruled out, but analysts say this is unlikely to take place during the year of a US presidential election.