Cash dispute delays opening of Iranian reactor
Mark Tran and agencies
Monday March 12, 2007
A construction worker assembles part of Iran's nuclear power plant in the southern port of Bushehr. Photograph: Mehr News Agency/EPA
A dispute over funding has delayed the start of Iran's first nuclear power plant, the state-run Russian company building the facility said today.
"It will be impossible to launch the reactor in September, and there can be no talk about supplying fuel this month," the Russian group Atomstroyexport said in a statement after the collapse of bilateral talks last week over late Iranian payments.
The nuclear facility at Bushehr, under construction in an $800m (£414m) agreement between the Russian and Iranian governments, has been shrouded in controversy.
Of the two reactors at Bushehr, one is in an advanced stage of completion, while the other has not been worked on for some time and is not currently scheduled to be finished. Completion of the facility has been much-delayed over the years and it was supposed to have been ready in 2005.
The US has long opposed the project on the grounds that Iran has sufficient oil and gas reserves for power generation, and that nuclear reactors are expensive, unnecessary and could be used for military purposes.
Although the project is allowed under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the US has provided Russia with intelligence information pointing to the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme. Despite this, the Russians pushed ahead with the project.
The delay in the Bushehr project comes amid reports of tension between Moscow and Tehran on Iran's nuclear programme.
Russian news agencies today reported a source in Moscow as saying that Iran was abusing Russia's stance on its nuclear programme.
"Unfortunately, the Iranians are abusing our constructive relations," news agencies quoted the source as saying. The source added Iran "cannot play forever" on its good relations with Russia and "it is unacceptable for us to have an Iran with a nuclear bomb or the potential to create one".
Iran today issued a bank note with a nuclear symbol in a move seen as an example of its determination to press ahead with uranium enrichment in the face of international sanctions.
The new note for 50,000 rials (£2.80) also reflected rising inflation, a fact that has led to growing criticism of the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It is worth more than twice the previous highest-denomination note.
The UN security council imposed sanctions on Iran in December after it ignored a resolution demanding that it halt enrichment. The five permanent members of the council plus Germany are now considering further sanctions against Iran.
The US and some of its European allies have accused Iran of seeking uranium enrichment as a part of a secret programme to build nuclear weapons.
Enriched uranium is used as fuel in nuclear reactors but, enriched to a higher level, can be used in atomic bombs. Iran denies that it trying to build nuclear bombs, saying its program is strictly limited to generating electricity.