Reuters reports that Russia plans to start up Iran's first nuclear power station to coincide with the Iranian New Year on 21 Mar. The agency's sources say testing is under way. Start-up dates for Bushehr have been set several times and have come to nothing. It remains to be seen whether the start-up, if it happens, escalates or cools Iran's dispute with the West over uranium enrichment. The United States and several other Western powers suspect Tehran of seeking to build a nuclear weapon.
Moscow agreed to build the 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plant in 1995 on the site of a plant begun in the 1970s by German firm Siemens. This project was disrupted by Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution and the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Diplomats say Moscow has used it as a lever in relations with Tehran. Iran has defied international pressure to allay fears over its nuclear program and on Nov 29 President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's government said it would build 10 new uranium enrichment plants. He has also threatened to take Iran out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. According to Reuters, the United States previously criticized Russia's involvement in the project but has dropped its opposition and now says Bushehr the station removes any need for Iran to have its own enrichment program. Russia says the plant is purely civilian and cannot be used for any weapons program as it will come under International Atomic Energy Agency supervision. Iran will have to return all spent fuel rods to Russia.
Date written/update: 2010-03-21