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Bushehr plant to be launched on Sat.

21 August 2010 1:43

Iran’s first nuclear power plant, which is located in the southern port city of Bushehr, is scheduled to be loaded with nuclear fuel on Saturday.

Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Director Ali Akbar Salehi and Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency Director Sergei Kiriyenko will be attending the inaugural ceremony of the Bushehr nuclear power plant.

Nuclear fuel will be transferred to the Bushehr reactor under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The startup of the plant will mark an important step in Iran’s efforts to produce nuclear electricity, and it is expected that Iranians will be using nuclear-generated electricity two or three months after the launch.

AEOI spokesperson Ali Shirzadian said the Bushehr reactor will be fully loaded with nuclear fuel by September 22.

He added that the plant is set to produce 500 megawatts of electricity in the initial stage, and its production capacity will increase to 1000 megawatts in the near future.

Despite the accusations by the United States, Israel, and certain other Western countries that Iran is pursing a military nuclear program, non-proliferation experts believe the Bushehr nuclear power plant is not a proliferation risk.

“Bushehr is not a proliferation risk as long as it is run to produce power for electricity generation,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, an expert in non-proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

“It would be a risk if Iran operated it differently, i.e. for short periods at low burn-up in order to produce weapons-usable plutonium — but in this case the IAEA would know,” he told AFP on Friday.

He added that IAEA inspectors will be in Bushehr to oversee the introduction of the fuel into the reactor core.

And the plant is also under full agency safeguards, meaning inspectors will always be keeping a close eye on Bushehr during the start-up phase and when it is finally up and running, he noted.

In conclusion, Fitzpatrick said, “Condemning the start-up of Bushehr sends the wrong signal to the Iranian people because it wrongly implies the West is against any nuclear technology in Iran.”

Mark Hibbs, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, agreed, saying that “theoretically, any power reactor is a ‘proliferation threat’ in the sense that its spent fuel can be diverted from IAEA safeguards, reprocessed, and the plutonium used to make bombs.”

Nevertheless, over the past 50 years “no proliferator has ever diverted power reactor fuel from IAEA safeguards to make bombs in a hurry,” he added.

In addition, on Friday the founding director of the Center for Energy and Security Studies in Moscow, Anton Khlopkov, told the Russian radio station Vesti FM that the Bushehr nuclear power plant is a totally peaceful nuclear center and does not endanger international security.

The IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities but has never found any evidence showing that Iran’s civilian nuclear program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.

Western corporations began the construction of the Bushehr facility in the 1970s. However, following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Western companies reneged on their commitments and pulled out of the project due to political pressure imposed by Washington.

Iran then turned to Russia to complete the project. In 1992, Tehran and Moscow signed a deal to complete the construction of the nuclear power plant.

The Bushehr plant was originally scheduled to be completed in 1999, but its start-up has been repeatedly delayed.

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