Page last updated at 18:26 GMT, Thursday, 5 February 2009

Russia to fire up Iranian reactor

BBushehr nuclear reactor
Iran's nuclear plant at Bushehr goes live this year, say Russians

Russian nuclear experts have confirmed they are likely to fire up Iran's first nuclear power plant by the end of 2009.

Russia's nuclear agency Rosatom said the first stage would be a "technical start-up" to test the reactor at the Russian-built Bushehr plant.

Some Western powers are concerned that Tehran may be building a nuclear weapons capability. Iran denies this.

Russia insists the Bushehr plant is for purely civilian use, and cannot be used for military purposes.

Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Rosatom, said the technical launch was on track to take place this year, and safety was the absolute priority.

"We will carry out as many tests as needed," he said.

The building of Iran's first nuclear plant has been beset by delays and difficulties.

It was first started in the 1970s by the German firm, Siemens.

But that stage of the project was disrupted by the Islamic revolution of 1979 and then further delayed by the war between Iran and Iraq that ended in 1988.

Since the Russians took on the completion of the plant, in 1995, Bushehr has been the cause of occasional friction between Russia and countries like the United States which oppose the possible acquisition by Iran of nuclear weapons.

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