Iran asks Russia about building more nuke reactors

AP News
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Posted: Sep 23, 2011 6:21 PM
Iran asks Russia about building more nuke reactors

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Friday that Tehran is talking to Russia about building additional nuclear power reactors.

He also invited other countries and companies to bid to build new nuclear power plants.

The $1 billion Bushehr reactor was built by the Russian company Atomstroyexport and commissioned in a ceremony on Sept. 13.

Ahmadinejad said Iran needs an additional 19,000 megawatts of energy beyond the 1,000 now coming from Bushehr.

"There are currently conversations ongoing with the Russians to provide that," Ahmadinejad told a news conference at a New York hotel, a day after he addressed the General Assembly.

"But it is only a general proposal," he said. "And from here today I want to officially invite other firms and other entities to come and bid and propose their participation for building these power plants."

Ahmadinejad said Iran's relations with Russia were as a neighbor, "and neighbors must be friends with one another."

"There are efforts on both sides in order to have a mutually beneficial ongoing relationship," he said.

Bushehr increased operations this month after more than a decade of delays, pumping out electricity at up to 40 percent capacity. Iranian officials say the plant could begin full-power operations in December.

The launch of the plant has been delayed for more than a decade over technical and construction setbacks _ and possibly by Russian efforts to use it as leverage in negotiations with Iran over its secretive nuclear program.

Last October, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made a clear distinction between Bushehr and other Iranian nuclear efforts _ such as uranium enrichment _ that Washington worries could lead to weapons production.

"Iran is entitled to the peaceful use of nuclear power," she said after speaking at a U.N. Security Council meeting. "They are not entitled to a nuclear weapons program."

Russia has promised to have full oversight of the nuclear fuel used in the Bushehr plant.

The Bushehr project dates back to 1974, when Iran's U.S.-backed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi contracted with the German company Siemens to build the reactor. The company withdrew from the project after the 1979 Islamic Revolution toppled the shah and brought hard-line clerics to power.

In 1992, Iran signed a $1 billion deal with Russia to complete the project. Work began in 1995 with a timetable to begin operations in 1999.

Earlier this year, foreign intelligence reports said the plant's control systems were penetrated by Stuxnet, a malicious computer software.

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Associated Press writer George Jahn contributed to this report from Vienna.