TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iran's first nuclear power plant will be operational within three months, providing electricity to Iran's national power grid by the summer, according to Iranian Energy Minister Parviz Fattah.
Russia says its fuel can only be used at and for the Bushehr plant.
Russia, which is building the Bushehr plant for Iran, started delivering nuclear fuel to the facility a week ago as part of a compromise effort to alleviate concerns over Iran's nuclear intentions while supporting Iran's right to a nuclear energy program.
The United States, several European nations and Israel suspect Tehran has been trying to acquire nuclear weapons, but Iran denies its nuclear program is for anything but peaceful purposes. A recent U.S. intelligence summary concluded that, contrary to earlier suspicions, Iran halted its nuclear weapons development in 2003.
Iran also said Sunday it "will soon announce international tender for construction of 19 new 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plants," according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency, or IRNA, citing Kazem Jalali, an official with the parliament's national security and foreign policy commission.
Jalali said the measure would be "taken in line with" the parliament's approval "for generating 20,000 megawatt of electricity to meet domestic demands," the IRNA report said.
Fattah told reporters Saturday that the Bushehr nuclear power plant, which was previously expected to be completed last September, will become operational on March 21, 2008, according to Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, or IRIB.
The plant will deliver 500 megawatts of electricity to the power grid by summer and 1,000 megawatts by March 2009, IRIB reported.
Atomstroiexport, Russia's nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly, completed the first stage of nuclear fuel deliveries a week ago, the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency said.
The United States, several European nations, and Israel suspect Tehran has been trying to acquire nuclear weapons, but Iran denies its nuclear program is for anything but peaceful purposes. A recent U.S. intelligence summary concluded that, contrary to earlier suspicions, Iran halted its nuclear weapons development in 2003.
Atomstroiexport, the Russian monopoly, is building the $1 billion Bushehr plant under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency. The Russian foreign ministry and nuclear officials said the fuel delivery was under full IAEA safeguards.
A statement on the Russian Foreign Ministry's official Web site last week said Iran had provided additional written guarantees that the fuel can only be used at and for the Bushehr plant, and that the spent fuel will be returned to Russia for utilization and storage.
The U.N. Security Council has repeatedly demanded that Iran suspend its own enrichment of uranium and has imposed limited sanctions on Tehran for refusing to comply. Russia, France, and China -- all permanent Security Council members -- have voiced concerns about the proposed sanctions.
A recent U.S. National Intelligence Estimate said Iran stopped work toward a nuclear weapon while under international scrutiny in 2003 and is unlikely to be able to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb until 2010 to 2015.
Construction of the plant was expected to be completed in September, but was delayed because of lack of financing and delayed equipment deliveries from other countries, the official Russian news agency Interfax said. E-mail to a friend
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