Iran sees further delay in starting up nuclear plant

Parliamentary c'tee set up to examine status of Bushehr plant says costs have spiraled, slams Russian builders for "making bad promises."

bushehr_311 reuters (photo credit: Stringer Iran / Reuters)
bushehr_311 reuters
(photo credit: Stringer Iran / Reuters)
TEHRAN - Iran's first nuclear power station will not start working this month as planned, several parliamentarians were quoted as saying on Monday, blaming Russian builders for the latest delay in a project Tehran hopes will showcase its peaceful atomic aims.
Members of a parliamentary committee set up to examine the status of the Bushehr plant on Iran's Gulf coast said costs had spiraled but did not say why the latest delay had happened.
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"The commissioning of the plant within the time frame promised by the officials will not be possible and it is still far from getting linked to the national electricity grid," lawmaker Asgar Jalalian told Aftab Yazd daily.
The latest delay comes a year after fuel rods were transported into the reactor building amid great media fanfare. Iran hoped to show the world it had joined the nuclear club despite sanctions imposed by countries that fear it is seeking nuclear weapons. It says its nuclear program is peaceful.
The fuel was not loaded into the reactor until October and then it had to be removed due to fears that metal particles from nearly 30-year old equipment used in the construction of the reactor core had contaminated the fuel.
Further delays could be an embarrassment not only to Iranian politicians who have made Bushehr the showpiece of Tehran's nuclear ambitions, but also for Russia which would like to export more of its nuclear know-how to emerging economies.
"The Russians keep making bad promises," Jalalian said.
"One of reasons for continued payment to the Russians is that our contract with them does not have a financial ceiling and lacks clear timing on contract termination."
A spokesman for Rosatom, Russia's state-run nuclear corporation, declined to comment on the Iranian news reports.
Bushehr was begun by Germany's Siemens in the 1970s, before Iran's Islamic Revolution, but has been dogged by delays.
Experts say that firing up the $1-billion Bushehr plant will not take Iran any closer to building a nuclear bomb since Russia will supply the enriched uranium for the reactor and take away spent fuel that could be used to make weapons-grade plutonium.
Countries concerned about Iran's nuclear activities are more worried about its own enrichment of uranium, a process than can make nuclear fuel but also bomb material if done to a very high level.
Iran says it needs nuclear power to allow it to export more oil and gas and prepare for the day when mineral riches dry up.
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