Iran nuclear plant will start with two-month delay: official

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Iran's atomic chief said on Wednesday that the country's first nuclear power plant will be ready to generate electricity by January -- two months later than announced.

Ali Akbar Salehi said that the process of placing fuel rods at the Bushehr facility, built by Russia, would be completed by the "middle of" the Iranian month of Aban, around November 7, the state television's website reported.

"Two or three months from then, the electricity generated by the plant will be connected to the grid," said Salehi, chief of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation.

Iran began loading the Russian-supplied fuel rods on August 21 and Ali Shirzadian, spokesman for the atomic body, had then said the plant would be connected to the national grid by end of October or early November.

But Salehi later had said that the loading would begin at the end of the Iranian month of Shahrivar (September 22) and by the end of the month of Mehr (October 22), the lid of the reactor would be shut.

Salehi, in an interview with Al-Alam television on August 31, blamed the delays on Bushehr's "severe hot weather" and safety concerns, adding that the loading was being done during the night.

Iran has not hinted at any other reasons for the delay, but officials have acknowledged that a computer worm is mutating and wreaking havoc on computerised industrial equipment in the country, where an official said on Monday that about 30,000 IP addresses had already been infected.

Analysts say that the Stuxnet worm may have been designed to target Iran's nuclear facilities.

Iranian officials have denied the Islamic republic's first nuclear plant at Bushehr was among the addresses penetrated by the worm, but they have said that personal computers of personnel at the facility have been infected.

Iran says it needs the Bushehr plant, which had been under construction since the 1970s and was finally finished by Russia, to meet growing demand for electricity.

But the international community widely believes that Iran's atomic activities are masking a covert nuclear weapons programme, which Tehran denies.

Iran is under four sets of United Nations sanctions for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment -- the process which can be used to make nuclear fuel but also the fissile core of an atom bomb in highly purified forms.

© 2010 AFP

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