Iran seeking Russian help for more nuclear reactors

Publish date: October 14, 2011

Written by: Charles Digges

With the completion of the controversial Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran, the Islamic Republic confirmed again on Thursday that it was seeking Russia’s help to build more than 30 more nuclear power plants, Voice of Russia reported.

“Iran wants to build more atomic plants,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Thursday in an interview on state-run radio station Voice of Russia.

“The recent launch of the Bushehr nuclear power plant has created favorable conditions for Russia’s participation in this project,” he said.

The $1 billion, 1000 megawatt Bushehr reactor was built by the Russian firm Atomstroiexport – the foreign reactor construction wing of Russia’s state nuclear power corporation Rosatom – and commissioned in a ceremony on Sept. 13.

Iranian officials say the Persian Gulf country needs enough atomic reactors to generate a total of 20,000 megawatts of electricity by 2020.

The United States and allied countries have long asserted Iran’s nuclear program may be a cover for building nuclear weapons.

Rosatom has not yet indicated whether it will participate in further reactor projects in Iran.

Iran has identified 34 potential sites for building additional nuclear power plants, state-run Press TV reported September 13, citing the deputy head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Ahmadian.

Mehmanparast’s statements to Voice of Russia confirm remarks made late last month by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York after addressing the United Nations General Assembly.

In a news conference at his hotel, he said Iran was in conversation with Russia about building additional nuclear plants. He also said he was asking other countries to participate.

“But it is only a general proposal,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “And from here today I want to officially invite other firms and other entities to come and bid and propose their participation for building these power plants.”

Ahmadinejad said Iran’s relations with Russia were as a neighbor, “and neighbors must be friends with one another.”

“There are efforts on both sides in order to have a mutually beneficial ongoing relationship,” he said.

That Russia would help Iran build more nuclear reactors is not a new idea. It was first floated in 2000 when Iran asked Minatom – the precursor to Rosatom – for assistance in building some 20 to 40 new reactors.

The offer, made mere hours before a visit to Moscow by former US Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, incensed Washington, which was already wary of Russian-Iranian cooperation on Bushehr, a project initially begun by Siemens, but abandoned in 1979 during Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

Russia stepped up to complete the project in 1986, and the project was completed after years of delays, technical difficulties and political pressure from western nations.

Russia has always insisted that Iran’s nuclear intentions are peaceful.

Bushehr is currently operating at 40 percent capacity. Iranian officials say it could reach 100 percent capacity by December.