BUSHEHR, Iran, Feb 25, 2009 (AFP) - Iran is to test its much-delayed first nuclear power plant on Wednesday as the country presses on with its atomic drive despite international sanctions.
The head of the Russian nuclear agency Sergei Kiriyenko, who is visiting Iran for the so-called pre-commissioning, said construction of the plant at the Gulf port of Bushehr was now complete.
"The construction stage of the nuclear power plant is over, we are now in the pre-comissioning stage, which is a combination of complex procedures," Kiriyenko told reporters in Bushehr.
Iran and Russia will also announce a date for the plant to go operational, the official IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday.
The test operation at the 1,000-megawatt plant will involve "virtual fuel," not nuclear fuel rods, officials have said.
Russia took over construction at Bushehr in 1994 but completion of the plant was delayed for a number of reasons, particularly Western accusations that Iran's nuclear programme is cover for a weapons drive.
The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, in its latest report on Iran released last week, said it has been informed by Tehran that the loading of the fuel into the reactor is scheduled to take place only during the second quarter of 2009.
The fuel, supplied by Moscow, is currently under IAEA seal.
All the main equipment at Bushehr has been installed by Russian contractor Atomstroiexport.
The start-up of the plant will be a leap forward in Iran's efforts to develop nuclear technology.