The Bushehr nuclear plant was built with the help of Russia [GALLO/GETTY]

Iran has began loading fuel into the core of its first nuclear power plant in the southwestern city of Bushehr, officials have said. 

Speaking on Tuesday, Mohammad Ahmadian, a senior nuclear official, said: "Nearly 160 fuel rods have been placed into the core of the reactor, which will be the energy production stage and a key stage for its operation".

Ali Akbar Salehi, the vice president of the nuclear programme, said on state television that it will take "one or two months to reach a 40 or 50 per cent nominal power".

The 1,000-MW Bushehr plant was built with the help of Russia, who will operate the facilityby supplying its nuclear fuel and taking away the nuclear waste.

Western powers fear Iran's nuclear programme is aimed at developing nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

Iran has been subject to four rounds of UN sanctions because of the programme.

"Political pressures like sanctions will not impede our progress and will not keep our nation from exercising its inalienable right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology," Ramin Mehmanparast, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, said in a news conference in the Iranian capital.

Iran expects the plant to finally begin generating energy by early next year.

Source: Al Jazeera