Iran says nuclear-power plant 'operational'

After years of delays, officials say Bushehr unit has begun generating electricity for the national grid.

    The Bushehr nuclear-power pllant is expected to reach full capacity in November, according to officials [GALLO/GETTY]

    Iran's first nuclear-power plant has started adding electricity to the national grid, finally coming on stream after years of delays, according to local media.

    The connection of the Bushehr plant to the national grid was originally scheduled for the end of 2010.

    "Last night at 11:29pm [18:59 GMT], the Bushehr power plant was connected with 60 megawatts to the national grid," Hamid Khadem Qaemi, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organisation, told Al-Alam television on Sunday.

    He told Iran's Arabic language TV station that the plant would be officially inaugurated on September 12, by which time it would be operating at 40 per cent capacity.

    Mohammad Ahmadian, the deputy atomic chief in charge of power plants, told state television the plant was expected to reach full capacity in November.

    "But it is very important for us to take these final steps with utmost safety concerns in mind. We want to have guaranteed functional operation," Ahmadian said.

    Russia - which built the plant - has pinned the blame for the delays on Iran, saying its engineers have been forced to work with outdated parts. The latest delay in March was blamed on wear and tear at the plant.

    Started by Germany's Siemens in the 1970s before Iran's Islamic revolution, the project was later taken over by Russian engineers.

    West's fears

    The $1bn plant on the Gulf coast is the first of what Iran hopes will become a network of nuclear facilities that will reduce its reliance on its abundant fossil fuels.

    However, the West fears Iran's nuclear programme is aimed at making atomic weapons, a charge which Tehran routinely denies.

    Experts say the Bushehr plant will not bring Iran any closer to building a nuclear bomb because Russia will supply the enriched uranium for the reactor and take away spent fuel that could be used to make weapons-grade plutonium.

    Meanwhile, Iran on Friday welcomed an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on its nuclear activities, saying it was as a "step forward" and highlighted positive steps taken by Tehran towards "co-operation and transparency".

    But the UN atomic watchdog said in a confidential report, a copy of which was obtained by the AFP news agency on Friday, that it was "increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organisations".

    These included "activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile", according to the report, which is due to be discussed by the IAEA's board of governors at a September 12-16 meeting.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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