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    Iran hails progress in Bushehr nuclear power plant construction

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    A top Iranian nuclear official said on Tuesday that Tehran was satisfied with the ongoing construction of the Islamic Republic's first nuclear power plant, currently being built by Russia in the south of Iran.

    TEHRAN, October 14 (RIA Novosti) - A top Iranian nuclear official said on Tuesday that Tehran was satisfied with the ongoing construction of the Islamic Republic's first nuclear power plant, currently being built by Russia in the south of Iran.

    Russia is building the $1 billion Bushehr facility under a 1995 contract. The project is subject to UN monitoring following Iran's refusal to halt its uranium enrichment program and Western suspicions that Tehran is seeking to build nuclear weapons.

    "We are satisfied in general with the progress in the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, especially after Russia delivered nuclear fuel to the facility," Iran's IRNA news agency quoted Ahmad Fayazbakhsh, the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization as saying.

    The Bushehr project was originally scheduled to go into operation at the end of 2006, but the launch date has been postponed several times.

    Russia delivered its eighth and final nuclear fuel shipment to Bushehr on January 28, supplying a total of 82 metric tons of low-enriched uranium to the plant's light-water reactor.

    Fayazbakhsh said about 700 Iranian nuclear technicians had undergone training in Russia in the past four years.

    "As a result, the expertise of Iranian specialists in construction and operation of the [Bushehr] plant has grown significantly," the official added.

    Russia's nuclear power chief Sergei Kiriyenko said in early June that preparations for the launch of the Bushehr project, including nuclear fuel operations, would start in the fall. He said with confidence that the safety of nuclear fuel storage was not in doubt.

    The Iranian foreign minister said on October 7 that the Bushehr nuclear power plant would be commissioned in the first half of 2009.

    "The completion and launch of the Bushehr nuclear power plant have been scheduled for the first half of 2009," Manouchehr Mottaki said.

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