Russian officials attend Bushehr launch

Sept. 12, 2011 at 8:04 AM
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BUSHEHR, Iran, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko attended a Monday ceremony in Iran to mark the launch of the first unit of the Bushehr nuclear plant, the Kremlin said.

A bilateral agreement between Moscow and Tehran stipulates that Russian will operate and supply fuel for the Bushehr plant for an unspecified period of time. Tehran will eventually take control over the plant, which Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti reports could happen in less than five years.

Shmatko and Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency, were on hand for the ceremony, the report adds.

Iran's nuclear ambitions are under international scrutiny. Tehran's adversaries suspect its controversial nuclear program is used as cover for a weapons program, though the Iranian government insists its intentions are peaceful.

The first unit at Bushehr has the capacity to generate 1,000 megawatts of power. It was connected to the grid during the weekend.

The Bushehr nuclear power plant has been under development for more than three decades. It was initially derailed following the 1979 Islamic Revolution of Iran.

The Russian Ministry for Atomic Energy signed a deal in 1995 to assist in the completion of the project but financial problems and pressure from the West caused further delays and construction nearly stopped in 2007.

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