Russia boosts Iranian nuclear facility

Several Iranian nuclear reactor trainees are going to Russia in March to learn how to run a power plant their host country will build in Iran, the Associated Press reported.

The agency reported thirty Iranians will be trained at the Novovoronezh nuclear plant in southern Russia. One of the plant’s reactors is the same type Russia will construct in Iran; the VVER-1000. Several hundred Iranians will be trained in Russia before the plant is fully staffed.

The contract for the completion of the first reactor unit destined for Bushehr nuclear power plant was signed in 1995. The works at the construction site began in autumn 1998 when the two parties ironed out disagreements over the project. A Russian-Iranian team is being put together by the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry and will be formed by 2000 or 2001. There are 1,000 Russians already employed on the construction site in Bushehr and the number will increase in 1999, Russian nuclear minister, Yevgeny Adamov, said. Russian officials said they hoped to complete the first unit by May, 2003.

Both the U.S. and Israel have voiced their concern over the project, fearing it will help Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Russia has persistently downplayed the accusations. The last statement on this question came from the Russian Deputy-Prime Minister, Vladimir Bulgak, who told Interfax on 11 February, 1998, that: "The Islamic Republic of Iran and Russia are jointly co-operating in the construction of the nuclear power plant for peaceful use and has nothing to do with military applications." Russian officials announced a proposed extension of nuclear co-operation with Iran and the building of three more reactor units.

A draft plan for nuclear co-operation was sent to Iran recently. Atomstroyexport, the company that drafted the proposal, suggested the Iranians build a nuclear power plant with either the VVER-1000 or new VVER-640 reactors. The St Petersburg-based, Izhorskiy Zavod machine-building company, launched a production line of equipment specifically for the nuclear power plant in Bushehr, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 February. The company will produce equipment for the first circuit of the reactor: the reactor vessel, the steam generator casing and the lid for the Number 1 unit. Production should take three years, which means the equipment will be delivered late in 2001.