Tehran triumphant at nuclear milestone

Iran's first nuclear power plant has finally begun to provide electricity to the county's national grid, official media reported yesterday, a long-delayed milestone in the nuclear ambitions of a country the West fears is covertly trying to develop atomic weapons.

The start-up will come as a relief to Tehran after many years of delays and false starts at a plant it hopes will show the world it has joined the nuclear club despite sanctions imposed aimed at curbing its disputed nuclear progress.

The $1billion, 1,000-megawatt Bushehr plant will be formally inaugurated on September 12, by which time it will be operating at 40 percent capacity, Hamid-Khadem Qaemi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI), told the state-controlled Arabic language TV station al-Alam. The AEOI was not available to comment.

The plant, on the Gulf coast, is the first of what Iran says will become a network of nuclear facilities that will reduce its reliance on its abundant fossil fuels and is a showpiece of what it says is a purely peaceful atomic programme.

Bushehr's start-up comes with Russia pushing to revive talks between global powers and Iran about its separate uranium enrichment work, seen abroad as a potential proliferation threat as highly refined uranium fuels atomic bombs.

Iran says it is enriching uranium only to low levels that are suitable for power-plant fuel or medical and agricultural uses. REUTERS