AFP: Iran said Friday it will press ahead with its controversial uranium enrichment programme in order to provide fuel for the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear plant due to go online this weekend.
TEHRAN, August 20, 2010 (AFP) – Iran said Friday it will press ahead with its controversial uranium enrichment programme in order to provide fuel for the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear plant due to go online this weekend.
“Enrichment (of uranium) for producing fuel for the Bushehr plant and other plants will continue,” the country’s atomic chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, told state news agency IRNA.
Iran’s first nuclear power plant, in the southern port city of Bushehr, is due to be launched on Saturday, although it will only start generating electricity from October or November, according to an Iranian nuclear official.
Russia has built the plant and also supplied it with fuel.
But Salehi said Iran would pursue uranium enrichment as Tehran may not always be in a position to buy fuel for the plant from Moscow.
“The Bushehr plant has a lifespan of 60 years and we plan to use it for 40 years. Suppose we buy fuel for 10 years from Russia. What are we going to do for the next 30 to 50 years?” Salehi said.
He said the contract with Russia does not stipulate that Tehran has always to buy fuel from Moscow, as the “memorandum of understanding says they will meet our demand if we request” it.
The Bushehr plant is scheduled to go online after more than three decades of delay.
Ali Shirzadian, spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, was cited by Fars news agency as saying that the actual “commissioning ceremony (of the facility) will take place in the … (Iranian month of) Aban (late October to November) when (its) electricity will be connected to the national grid.”
In a separate report, IRNA cited Iran’s envoy to the UN atomic watchdog, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, as saying that Bushehr launch symbolises Tehran’s “dominance over the nuclear fuel cycle.”
The Bushehr plant is not directly under UN sanctions, although Tehran has been slapped with four sets of punitive measures for pursuing the sensitive uranium enrichment programme.
The latest round of UN sanctions were imposed on June 9.