TEHRAN (FNA)- A team of Russian nuclear experts is visiting Iran as part of regular checking of the Islamic Republic’s first nuclear power plant which is under construction by Russia in the southwestern Iranian port city of Bushehr.
Leonid Reznikov, Russian Director of Atomstroiexport company, which is in partnership with Iran in the Bushehr project, is accompanied by his deputy and a delegation of experts for the three-day visit.
The Russian delegation will begin their negotiations with a team of Iranian experts headed by Ahmad Fayaz Bakhsh, the deputy director of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO).
Reznikov began inspecting different sections of the Bushehr power plant later on Monday.
Iran on January received the 82-ton consignment of nuclear fuel from Russia for the Bushehr plant.
However, Iran said the Russian shipment would not stop the country from pursuing its own uranium-enrichment program.
Washington and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.
Despite the rules enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entitling every member state, including Iran, to the right of uranium enrichment, Tehran is now under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West’s illegitimate calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment.
Tehran has dismissed West’s demands as politically tainted and illogical, stressing that sanctions and pressures merely consolidate Iranians’ national resolve to continue the path.
Iran insists that it should continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.
Iran currently suffers from an electricity shortage that has forced the country into adopting a rationing program by scheduling power outages – of up to two hours a day – across both urban and rural areas.
Iran plans to construct additional nuclear power plants to provide for the electricity needs of its growing population.
The Islamic Republic says that it considers its nuclear case closed as it has come clean of IAEA’s questions and suspicions about its past nuclear activities.
Commenting on the Atomstroiexport delegation visit, Russian MP Konstantin Beschetnov said, “In effective business any disputed issues are resolved through negotiations. That is why I am certain that the Bushehr construction will be completed successfully.”
The Russian lawmaker maintained that it is too early to determine a precise date for the completion of the plant.
“This project is so unique that it is too early to announce a completion date. As with any business project it has experienced a number of complications,” RIA Novosti quoted Beschetnov as saying.
The Head of the Russian Nuclear Energy Agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, and Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Director Gholamreza Aqazadeh recently announced that the Bushehr plant will be operational by the end of the year.
In June 2008, Kiriyenko said Bushehr would begin operations in the fall of 2008, a prediction endorsed by the IAEO.
Iran said it has paid nearly all of the $1 billion charged by Moscow for the Bushehr nuclear power reactor.
The Iran-Russia joint project has been delayed at least five times for various reasons.
Russians have acknowledged delays of Bushehr. Under the contract Russia would bear the expense of additional delays to Bushehr.
Moscow has attributed delays to the refusal of unidentified countries to provide Iran with nuclear components and machinery for Bushehr. US opposition to Iran’s progress in nuclear technology is said to be among the main deterrence to the completion of the project.
Political observers believe that the United States has remained at loggerheads with Iran over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran’s nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for other third-world countries. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.
Washington’s push for additional UN penalties contradicts the report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran’s programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head – one in November and the other one in February – which praised Iran’s truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seems to be completely irrational.
The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran’s cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran’s nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.
The UN nuclear watchdog has also carried out at least 14 surprise inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites so far, but found nothing to support West’s allegations.
The Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog continues snap inspections of Iranian nuclear sites and has reported that all “declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities.”
Observers believe that the shift of policy by the White House to send William Burns – the third highest-ranking diplomat in the US – to the latest round of Iran-West talks happened after Bush’s attempt to rally international pressure against Iran lost steam due to the growing international vigilance.
US President George W. Bush finished a tour of the Middle East in winter to gain the consensus of his Arab allies to unite against Iran.
But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush’s allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.
Many world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure against Iran unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports, stressing that Tehran’s case should be normalized and returned to the UN nuclear watchdog due to the Islamic Republic’s increased cooperation with the agency.