Alexander Rumyantsev, the head of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom), said the first unit of the Busher nuclear power plant in Iran, which is being constructed by Russian experts, might be put into operation next year.
"The start of the first power-generating unit is possible next year," Rumyantsev told journalists today.
"Busher took a huge leap forward in the past year, and we virtually got back on schedule after a hiatus caused mainly by delays in the signing of the Russian-Iranian protocol on the return of nuclear waste to Russia," the official said.
Rumyantsev added that construction work in Busher had been accelerated in the past year.
In response to a question about whether Russian experts would build other units at the Busher plant, the official said, "There are many differences on the matter."
Meanwhile, Rumyantsev mentioned that Iran had put forward a request at a conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2003 on building seven more units. He said he was sure Iran was intending to develop its nuclear power sector.
The Rosatom head said earlier that Russia would deliver about 100,000 metric tons of nuclear fuel to Iran under the strict control of the IAEA in late 2005 - early 2006.
Spent fuel will be stored in a special pool near the active zone for three to four years. "It is inaccessible, because there is no access to the reaction zone in water-cooled and moderated reactors. When there is enough fuel to fill a shipping package, it will be taken to Russia," Rumyantsev said.
He stressed that not a gram of spent fuel had been delivered to Moscow over the last four years.
However, the official said the country had made progress on the market.
Russia enacted the law on the return of nuclear waste four years ago. "We needed this law to advance on foreign markets," the Rosatom head said. "We were always told that if we did not have the right to receive nuclear waste, we would not be able to construct nuclear power plants overseas."