Russia's nuclear agency said today that it will load fuel into Iran's first nuclear power plant next week, defying US calls to hold off the start of the launch. The uranium fuel will be loaded into the Bushehr reactor on Aug. 21, beginning the startup process. "From that moment the Bushehr plant will be officially considered a nuclear-energy installation," said a spokesman for the agency, Rosatom.
The United States has called for Russia to delay the startup until Iran proves that it's not developing nuclear weapons. Moscow signed a $1 billion contract in 1995 to build the Bushehr plant, but it has dragged its feet on completing the project for years. Moscow has cited technical reasons for the delays, but analysts say Moscow has used the project to press Iran to ease its defiance over its nuclear program. Russian officials said that the latest UN sanctions against Iran won't affect the project.