Iran To Open Nuclear Plant This Year, Russia Says
by George Whitten, Jerusalem Bureau Chief, and Stefan Bos, European Bureau Chief
JERUSALEM/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) — Russia’s nuclear power chief said Thursday, February 5, that his country plans to start up the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran this year, despite international concerns the project is part of a wider nuclear program.
Sergei Kiriyenko told Russian media Thursday, February 5, that assuming nothing unexpected happens, the opening will happen before the end of 2009.
It came a day after the Islamic nation announced it successfully launched its first ever satellite, using rockets that experts said could potentially wear nuclear warheads.
Iran’s launch of a low-orbit satellite into Tuesday, February 3, “is clearly a concern of ours” because it could lead to the development of a ballistic missile system, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said.
A domestically built Ambassador-2 or Safir-2 rocket reportedly carried the satellite into space.
U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718 prohibits Iran from engaging in missile-related activities.
Despite the controversy, Kiriyenko said he plans to travel to the Bushehr nuclear construction site later this month. “If there are no unforeseen events…then the launch will go according to the timetable,” he told reporters in the Kremlin.
“The launch is scheduled for this year,” he said, adding that this was the original plan laid down in a timetable agreed with Iran. “I plan to be at the Bushehr plant in February.”
Russia began working on the nuclear power plant since 1995, and says it has already delivered the fuel to get Iran’s first nuclear power plant running.
The plant’s opening has frequently been delayed. In the past, Iranian officials have blamed the delays, in part, on foreign sanctions related to its disputed nuclear program.
Israel and the West, which suspects Iran of seeking to produce its own nuclear bomb, have been critical of Russia’s involvement in Bushehr. Russia says the plant is purely civilian and cannot be used for any weapons program.
Despite Western concerns over a nuclear-armed Iran, the German government has rewarded the country with a roughly €4 billion ($5.25 billion) trade relationship in 2008, Worthy News learned.
Germany remain Iran’s most important European trade partner. In the period of January to November 2008, German exports to Iran grew by 10.5 percent over the same period in 2007, according to official estimates.
That booming trade last year included 39 “dual-use” contracts with Iran, according to Germany’s export-control office. Dual-use equipment and technology can be used for both military and civilian purposes.