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    Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant to be launched this summer - Putin

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    The first reactor of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southwestern Iran should be launched this summer, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

    The first reactor of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southwestern Iran should be launched this summer, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday. 

    The launch of Iran's first nuclear power plant, which Russian specialists are completing under a cloud of suspicion over the nature of Tehran’s nuclear program, has been repeatedly put back in recent years. 

    "The first unit of the Iranian nuclear power plant in Bushehr should be launched as soon as the summer," Putin said during a video conference in the southern Russian city of Volgodonsk.

    Atomstroyexport, the Russian firm building the Bushehr facility, specified that the power plant would be launched in July. 

    “July is the start of the phase for the physical launch,” Vladimir Pavlov, head of the Atomstroyexport department for construction of the Bushehr plant, told the session. 

    The project was started in 1975 by German companies but work stopped after a U.S. embargo was imposed on high-technology supplies to Iran following the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the subsequent U.S. Embassy siege in Tehran.

    Russia signed a contract with Iran in February 1998 for the completion of the plant.

    The launch date has been postponed many times over financial and technical reasons. Iran has claimed that Russia was reluctant to finish the facility due to UN sanctions, and concerns voiced by world powers that the plant is part of a covert nuclear weapons program.

    Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said late last year that the construction of the Bushehr facility was proceeding according to plan and the plant would go online in 2010 as scheduled. 

    Putin also said that Russia could capture no less than a quarter of the world market of civilian nuclear power engineering, providing services in both construction and operation of nuclear power plants, their maintenance and modernization and the supply and disposal of nuclear fuel.

    VOLGODONSK, March 18 (RIA Novosti)

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