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Sergei Kiriyenko, former Russian prime minister and current head of the Russian atomic energy agency (file photo) (ITAR-TASS)
September 8, 2006 -- The head of Russia's atomic energy agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, says the atomic reactor that Russia is building for Iran is scheduled to become operational in November 2007.
The United States, which accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, has long pushed for Russia to stop building the Bushehr plant.
Kiriyenko says he believes there are "no objective grounds" under which the building of Bushehr would be affected by possible international sanctions against Iran.
Western and Russian media reports earlier in the day quoted an unidentified Russian official as saying Russia would halt the construction of the Bushehr plan if Iran were to expel inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Iran has threatened to expel the inspectors if the UN Security Council imposes sanctions against Tehran.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov promptly dismissed the reports as "provocation."
(Reuters, Interfax, lenta.ru, newsru.com)
Click on the map to view the locations of Russia's civilian nuclear power plants.
POWER OF THE ATOM: As Russia's economy recovers from the collapse of the 1990s, the government is moving forward with plans to expand its nuclear-energy sector. Russia currently has 31 civilian nuclear-power reactors in operation, with the newest being Kalinin-3, which came on line in 2004. Nuclear power accounts for 16 percent of Russia's total power generation. Three additional reactors are currently under construction.
Many of Russia's reactors are quite old. In 2000, the government announced plans to extend the working lifetime of 12 first-generation reactors. So far, seven of these reactors have been upgraded for 15-year extensions and all 12 of them are expected to be replaced by 2020.
Russia controls about 4 percent of the world's known uranium deposits, producing some 2,900 tons of uranium in 2002. Russia has four operating uranium-enrichment plants, the largest of which is located at Novouralsk near Yekaterinburg.
The government has not yet approved a proposal for a permanent nuclear-waste storage facility on the Kola Peninsula.