Tehran: Iran's first nuclear power station will be loaded with fuel on Saturday, a showcase for Tehran's claim that its atomic ambitions are purely peaceful.
Experts say firing up the $1-billion Bushehr plant will not take Iran any closer to building a nuclear bomb as Russia will supply the enriched uranium for the reactor and take away spent fuel rods which could be used to make weapons-grade plutonium.
Iran insists it does not want nuclear weapons anyway.
After decades of delays, the event is a milestone in Iran's path to harness technology which it says will reduce consumption of its abundant fossil fuels, allowing it to export more oil and gas and to prepare for the day when the minerals riches dry up.
"It is a big day. Iran has been waiting for it for years. Bushehr has seen the start up postponed so many times that Iranians will breath a sigh of relief," said Mark Fitzpatrick of London's International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Iran will claim victory over the United States which has tried to block a nuclear programme it sees as highly suspect.
Western nations question why Iran wants to enrich uranium itself when, as Bushehr shows, it does not need it for power stations. Tehran's refusal to cease enrichment has resulted in a raft of new United Nations sanctions and tougher unilateral measures by the United States, the European Union and elsewhere.
"The inauguration of the plant will be a thorn in the side of ill-wishers," said Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation.
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