Russia, Iran to initially jointly operate Bushehr

18 February 2008

Russia and Iran held a meeting at the Bushehr nuclear power plant to discuss the commissioning of the first reactor and the formation of a joint venture to initially operate the plant.


Bushehr 2 

The Bushehr 1 reactor (Image: ASE)

On 14 February, representatives from AtomStroyExport (ASE) and 20 other Russian contractor companies met with their Iranian customers at the site of the Bushehr plant to discuss progress on the first unit at the plant and its commissioning. It was noted that construction is almost complete, financing problems had been resolved, most equipment had already been delivered, and the initial fuel load was now being stored on-site.


ASE said that a key limitation to the unit's commissioning is a lack of personnel. It said that to successfully complete the project it requires 2300 workers on site, twice the current level. However, it said that there are plans to soon recruit almost 300 additional workers.


During the meeting, the two sides agreed to establish a joint venture for operating the first reactor at Bushehr following its commissioning. Gennady Tepkyan, vice president of ASE, told RIA Novosti: "A plan for setting up the joint venture will be drawn up within two months, and the composition and number of Russian and Iranian personnel at Bushehr will be determined." He said that the joint venture was designed to "provide Iranian specialists with expertise in operating the nuclear power plant." Tepkyan noted that some 760 workers from Russia and Iran would work at Bushehr. However, the Russian operators would gradually be replaced by Iranian ones.


Tepkyan said that during the meeting at Bushehr, the parties decided to set up a Russian-Iranian working group to consider the financial and organizational aspects of the joint venture.


At the end of January, following the eighth and final shipment of nuclear fuel from Russia to Bushehr, Sergei Shmatko, president of ASE, told the Itar-Tass news agency that Russia intends to complete the Bushehr plant as soon as possible. He said, "We have settled with the customer all questions and problems that existed." Shmatko added, "The time of completing the Bushehr project is of principal nature for the customer. We shall work to complete all things at the earliest."


Preparation for the loading of the fuel into the reactor will start in July or August, Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) told Itar-Tass. He noted that there is "an agreed schedule" for the start of Bushehr's operation. Kiriyenko also said that "there are no unresolved problems in mutual relations. Therefore, contractors are working with a swing." He said that "Russia's stance is 'the quicker the better', since the station has a high degree of readiness. The quicker it is put into operation, the better."


Bushehr 1 will be a unique VVER-1000 pressurized water reactor (PWR), built by ASE from pre-existing site works made by Siemens. Bushehr 1 was originally intended to be a Kraftwerk Union PWR to supply about 1200 MWe to the grid from 1981. Work was 85% complete when the project was halted after Iran's Islamic Revolution of 1979. In 2002, ASE signed a deal to complete the unit to its own design.