Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

Russia's top nuclear official, Sergei Kiriyenko, expressed optimism Thursday over the expected operation of the first Iranian nuclear power plant beginning on Saturday. The operation of the plant will prove that Iran is capable of using nuclear power and is entitled to do so, he said.

Russia will provide fuel for the Bushehr reactor. The first fuel will be transferred into the reactor on Saturday, and the plant is expected to begin producing energy approximately one month later.

By supplying Iran with fuel for its reactor, “we have proven that Russia always fulfills its obligations,” Kiriyenko told Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in a televised meeting. Russia signed a contract to build the Bushehr reactor more than a decade ago, before Iran caused worldwide concern with its secretive nuclear program.

Kiriyenko added that Russia supports the rights of all countries to make peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The fuel provided by Russia for the plant is different from the fuel needed to create nuclear weapons. The Bushehr fuel is enriched to approximately 3.5%, while weapons-grade fuel is enriched to over 90%. However, it is possible to take some of the fuel and enrich it further at another location,. giving rise to fears that international supervision is needed for a country whose leader has expressed plans to destroy Israel..

The deal between the two countries includes a guarantee that Iran will return spent nuclear fuel to Russia, in order to ensure that Iran does not use the spent fuel to create nuclear weapons.

Russia, along with China, was slow to join much of the international community in slapping sanctions on Iran over its refusal to allow international inspectors to visit its nuclear facilities. That refusal, coupled with Iranian threats against Israel and the West, led many to fear that Iran was planning to create a nuclear bomb.

In recent months Russia has joined most of the UN Security Council in putting sanctions on Iran, and in June Russia announced that it would cancel the delivery of the S-300 missile defense system that it had planned to sell to the Islamic state.