Iran: 'Bushehr to be ready by March 2008'

Energy minister says facility will be active in four months, half a year earlier than West's estimates.

Bushehr 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Bushehr 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Iran's nuclear facility at Bushehr will be operational within three months, Iranian Energy Minister Parviz Fattah said Sunday, according to a CNN report. Russia, which is building the Bushehr plant, renewed supply of nuclear fuel to the facility a week ago as part of a compromise effort to alleviate concerns over Iran's nuclear intentions. Some analysts in western countries suggested Russia's decision to renew shipments was a result of the relatively docile tone of the recently published US National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program four years ago. Fattah told reporters Saturday that the Bushehr nuclear power plant, which was previously expected to be completed last September, will become operational on March 21, 2008, according to Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). The plant will deliver 500 megawatts of electricity to the power grid by summer and 1,000 megawatts by March 2009, IRIB reported. Atomstroiexport, Russia's nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly, completed the first stage of nuclear fuel deliveries a week ago, the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency said. Israel, the United States and several EU nations, suspect Teheran has been trying to acquire nuclear weapons, but Iran denies its nuclear program is for anything but peaceful purposes. Atomstroiexport is building the $1 billion Bushehr plant under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency. The Russian Foreign Ministry and nuclear officials said the fuel delivery was under full IAEA safeguards. Construction of the plant was expected to be completed in September, but was delayed because of lack of financing and delayed equipment deliveries from other countries, the official Russian news agency Interfax said.