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First Test On Iranian Nuclear Plant Begins

The building that houses the Bushehr reactor, about 1,200 kilometers south of Tehran.
BUSHEHR -- Iran says it has begun tests on its Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant as part of preparations for its launch.

A spokesman for the Iranian atomic energy organization, Mohsen Shirazi, said the visiting head of Russia's state nuclear company, Sergei Kiriyenko, and his Iranian counterpart, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, were at the plant, which is located in southwestern Iran.

The two inspected work that included injecting "virtual" fuel into rods. Virtual fuel consists of lead and is meant to imitate enriched uranium needed to run the plant. Shirazi said the process started 10 days ago.

The pilot operations at the 1,000-megawatt reactor -- built with Russia under a $1 billion contract -- were long delayed. Bushehr is expected to become operational later this year.

The West, which suspects Tehran of seeking to produce its own nuclear bomb, has been critical of Russia's involvement in building the plant. Russia says it is purely civilian and cannot be used for any weapons program.

compiled from agency reports