Tehran, Aug 22, IRNA -- Iran said Sunday its first nuclear power plant, being built with Russian assistance in southern Bushehr, will become operational in October 2006, a year behind schedule. Speaking to reporters here, head of Iran`s Atomic Energy Organization Asadollah Sabouri, cited some of the complexities which are dogging the project, including the deal related to the return of spent fuel and its costs. "One subject which has not been concluded yet is related to the deal on the return of spent fuel, which is very complex," he said, stressing that `the state decision in Iran is to return the spent fuel to Russia`."
Given that the return and transfer of the spent fuel from the power plant to Russia will be carried out eight or nine years later, it is hard to figure out the transfer costs now," Sabouri added. The contract for the return of the spent fuel, however, has been finalized, and differences exist over the costs, the official said. According to Sabouri, the two countries have set the deadline for Russia`s delivery of nuclear fuel for the power plant to Iran at the end of 2005.
He stressed that one reason for delay in the power plant`s operation was the insistence which Iran was making on the nuclear protection and security requirement, including for environmental safety.
He said the environmental standards of the facility had been confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). So far, Iran has spent more than one billion dollars on the project and it is projected that a further three to four billion dollars has to be spent on bringing the power plant on stream, sabouri said.
"We will receive all the equipment by the end of this year (in March 2005) and the installation work will be carried out in the second half of this year and next year," he added. Once operational, the power plant is projected to generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity, 6,000 megawatts less than the target which Iran has set to produce by 2021 in nuclear power plants. This will require conclusion of new contracts and sabouri said technical and economic studies on building a new plant by Russia had been concluded, pending discussions by the two countries` officials in their future agenda.
The official again welcomed European companies` participation in the project, saying Iran had received initial readiness of at least two European firms to take part. He refused to name them. Asked if the Americans were also welcome, he said, "I have no clear answer in this regard since this subject goes beyond the technical and engineering scope."
Commenting on a likely Israeli attack on the plant, sabouri said," Those responsible to guarantee the power plant`s security have fulfilled their task and officials at different rank and file have responded (to these threats)."
"However, the Israeli threats are intended for propaganda and will never become practical," he added.
Israel has raised the ante in recent weeks, launching the Arrow missile-defense system that reportedly destroyed an incoming ballistic missile in a test off the California coast in July 2004. The regime has cited the missile as the mainstay of its defense program against a probable Iranian missile attack. The launch was followed by Iran`s successful testing of an upgraded version of its Shahab-3 medium-range missile earlier this month, with military officials saying that the entire territory of Israel, including its nuclear facilities, were within its range.
Iran, having been wary of Israeli weapons development, has stressed that the missile is defensive, while Iranian military commanders have warned of grave consequences if the Zionist state attacks the country. The tensions have been heightened by the US campaign to organize international pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear program, which Tehran says is strictly peaceful.
Bushehr has seen its start date pushed back steadily in recent years from an earlier target of 2003. Russian officials had recently said it would start up in 2005. Construction of Bushehr power plant has already cost Iran billions of dollars. The German firm Siemens and its subsidiary Kraftwerke Union (KWU) began work on the plant in 1974, but stopped following the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
At that time, Unit-One was 90 percent complete, with 60 percent of the equipment installed, and Unit-Two was 50 percent complete. During the 1980 to 1988 imposed war with Iraq, the Bushehr reactors were repeatedly targeted by Iraq, which bombed the plant at least six times. Starting in the mid-1980s, Iran approached several nuclear suppliers about the possibility of completing the Bushehr-1 reactor. A consortium of West German, Spanish and Argentine companies bid to complete it in the late 1980s, but the deal was never completed owing to U.S. pressure.
In a similar deal, Iran signed a protocol in February 1990 with Spanish companies to complete the plant and supply the reactor`s fuel, but they later canceled the deal citing US political pressure.