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Russia completes fuel shipment to Iran's 1st nuclear plant
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Russia completed Monday the delivery of uranium fuel to Iran's first nuclear power plant, Itar-Tass news agency reported.

The eighth and final batch of Russian nuclear fuel, which is necessary for the initial stage of operation of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, was delivered to its construction site, Itar-Tass quoted the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) as saying.

The shipment of 8.6 metric tons of uranium fuel completed Russia's promised nuclear fuel deliveries to the Bushehr power plant, which is located in southwestern Iran.

So far, all fuel necessary for the initial stage as well as all necessary equipment has been delivered to Iran, the AEOI said in a communique.

"The total amount of supplies has made up 82 tons of nuclear fuel enriched to 1.6-3.6 percent (235U)," said the communique.

"Supplies were made with adherence to all safety demands," it added.

Iranian officials have welcomed the supplies, which they say contribute "to the deepening of strategic relations between Iran and Russia," but have warned at the same time that they will not change the country's bid to enrich uranium itself.

Sergei Shmatko, president of the Russian Atomstroiexport Company, the general contractor in Bushehr power plant's construction, told Itar-Tass earlier that Russia intends to complete the work in the shortest possible time.

"We have settled with the customer all questions and problems that existed," Shmatko said.

"We have started large-scale launching of work at the Bushehr station site. We shall hold a visiting meeting of all heads of contract organizations on the construction site early in February," he added.

"The time of completing the Bushehr project is of principal nature for the customer," Shmatko said. "We shall work to complete all things at the earliest."

According to Sergei Kirienko, head of the Russian Federal Agency for Nuclear Power (Rosatom), preparation for the loading of nuclear fuel into the reactor will start in July or August.

Speaking about the start of the station's operation, Kirienko said, "There is an agreed schedule."

"There are no unresolved problems in mutual relations. Therefore, contractors are working with a swing," the Rosatom head said.

"Russia's stand is the quicker the better, since the station has a high degree of readiness. The quicker it is put into operation, the better," Kirienko said.

"We shall do our utmost to complete this work as soon as possible," he said.

Iran said earlier that the Bushehr nuclear power plant will begin operating in the summer of 2008, producing half its 1,000-megawatt capacity of electricity.

Iran received the first shipment of nuclear fuel from Russia on December 17 after months of wrangling between the two countries, apparently over delayed construction payments for the reactor.

The two sides also gave different schedules on the plant's operating start date.

Iran has said it would put Bushehr power plant into operation at half capacity in the summer of 2008, but Atomstroiexport said last December that it would take at least one year to start operation.

The United States and some of its allies have said Iran may use the power plant as a civilian cover to develop atomic weapons and have called on Russia to suspend the Bushehr project.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, however, has promised that the fuel will be under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), saying, "All fuel that will be delivered will be under the control and guarantees of the IAEA for the whole time it stays on Iranian territory."

(Xinhua News Agency January 29, 2008)

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