Kiriyenko vows Bushehr start-up by the end of the year

"If there are no unforeseen events(…)then the launch will go according to the timetable," Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko told reporters in the Kremlin.

"The launch is scheduled for this year," he was quoted by Reuters as saying. "I plan to be at the Bushehr plant in February."

A spokesman for Rosatom said Kiriyenko was talking about the so called "technical" start-up, which will be the first time the reactor is fully switched on and aims to test its systems before electricity is supplied to the grid.

The start up the Bushehr plant’s nuclear reactor has frequently been delayed, though Russia last year completed delivery of nuclear fuel to the station under a total contract estimated to be worth about $1 billion.

Russian ministers have said they have seen no hard evidence that Tehran is seeking to build a nuclear weapon while Iran says it has a right to a civilian nuclear programme its energy needs, and insist the plant cannot be used for any weapons projects.

Switching on the Bushehr plant will dismay some in the United States, Israel and Europe who are deeply suspicious of Iran’s intentions.