Russian and Iran set date to start controversial Bushehr reactor

Publish date: September 26, 2006

Despite fears of raising international blood pressures over Iran’s nuclear programme, Russia and Tehran signed a deal in Moscow on Tuesday to launch the Islamic Republic’s nuclear reactor at Bushehr in September next year, officials in Moscow told the BBC.

The officials say the Russian-built reactor will be fully operational in November 2007.

“We have agreed with (Rosatom Director Sergei) Kirienko on completion of the construction of the nuclear plant, and a specific time for the delivery of nuclear fuel to Iran,” Iranian vice president Gholam Reza Aghazadeh said at a meeting with Russian Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov in the Kremlin on Tuesday, according to the MOSNEWS website.

Rosatom spokesman Sergey Novikov said the date was fixed in an additional agreement to the original contract to build the reactor. It came after Iranian officials apparently urged their Russian counterparts to speed up work to finish the plant, the BBC reported.

Ivanov, quoted by Itar-Tass news agency, said Moscow would stand by its commitments.

According to a sideliine agreement signed by Mahmoud Hanatian, vice president of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization and Sergei Shmatko, head of Atomstroiproekt, the Russian nuclear agency’s international reactor building wing, some 80 tonnes of uranium fuel will be sent to the Bushehr plant by March 2007, although the reactor only requires 75 tonnes to operate for the standard run of four years. It is the fate of those extra 5 tons that have many analysts and western policy-makers worried, as it could be diverted for enrichment.

The reactor will physically start up in September 2007 and will begin electical generation by November 2007, the agreement states.

Russia recognises Tehran’s right to develop nuclear energy
After a meeting with visiting Iranian Vice-President Gholamreza Agazadeh, Ivanov said the on-going crisis between the West and Iran to shut down Iran’s uranium enrichment programme could be solved by negotiation. A compromise could be found which would recognise Tehran’s right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but which also addressed the concerns of the international community, he said according to the BBC.

"We consider it necessary that Iran should be guaranteed the right to peacefully develop nuclear energy, and also to remove the concerns of the international community regarding obligations under the nonproliferation regime," Ivanov told Aghazadeh.

Aghazadeh, who is also head of Iran’s nuclear organization, responded that Tehran was satisfied with the agreements signed.

"We achieved a good agreement on completing construction of the atomic energy plant at Bushehr, including agreement on a concrete date for directing atomic fuel to Iran," he said.