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Russia, Iran steer shy of start date for nuclear power plant

Bushehr NPP.
by Staff Writers
Tehran (AFP) Nov 30, 2009
Both Russia and Iran refused on Monday to say when the Islamic republic's long-delayed first nuclear power plant at Bushehr would come on line, the official IRNA news agency reported.

"There is no need to make another (start date) promise," the agency quoted visiting Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko as saying.

"We have been working on this power plant jointly with a sense of responsibility, and the plant will be fully operational in a short time."

Shmatko spoke to reporters in the southern city of Bushehr, after the facility being built by Moscow underwent a pre-commissioning test.

Earlier this month Shmatko said that the plant would not begin operations by the end of 2009 as previously announced. Its start date has been delayed several times.

In 1995 Iran handed over the unfinished project, launched by Siemens of Germany in the 1970s, to Russia. Moscow has repeatedly extended the completion date in recent years.

Shmatko blamed delays on "complications of equipment and technology in such a unique power plant."

He attended Monday's pre-commissioning test with Iran's atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi, who was also non-committal about a start date.

"I do not want to give a specific date, but I can give the assurance that based on the promises made by our Russian friends, this plant will become operational as soon as possible," Salehi said.

Russia has pressed ahead with the Bushehr project despite Western concerns about Iran's nuclear energy ambitions. Tehran rejects fears that its nuclear programme is cover for a secret atomic weapons project.

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