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Russia Says To Load Fuel In Iran Reactor On August 21

The nuclear power plant in Bushehr in a photo from 2007
Russia's atomic corporation has said it will begin to load fuel into the reactor at Iran's Bushehr nuclear power station on August 21.

Rosatom spokesman Sergei Novikov said that loading the reactor with fuel would be a key step toward starting up the reactor at Iran's first nuclear power plant, though the reactor would not be considered operational from that date.

Novikov said August 21 will be "the start of the physical launch" of the reactor.

ITAR-TASS news agency reported earlier that the reactor would be started up on August 21, citing a statement posted on the Rosatom website.

The statement was soon withdrawn from the site and no correction was immediately issued.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on March 18 that Russia planned to start up the reactor at the Bushehr plant in the summer of 2010.

Western countries have been critical of Russia's involvement in building Iran's first nuclear power plant. Moscow says Bushehr plant is purely civilian and cannot be used for any weapons program.

compiled from agency reports