BUSHEHR, Iran, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- After years of delay, Iran and Russia started on Saturday to load fuel rods to a reactor at Iran's first nuclear power plant, while Iran vowing to pursue its next "peaceful" nuclear programs with "high speed."
Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russian state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom, and chief of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali-Akbar Salehi attended a ceremony to initiate the transfer of the fuel to Bushehr power plant in southern Iran.
The fuel-loading operation by Iranian and Russian engineers was carried out under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Bushehr power plant was a great and unique international project which was implemented by Russia, Kiriyenko said at a joint press conference after the ceremony.
Observing the safety issues at the power plant was of primary importance for Russia, Kiriyenko said. He implicitly rejected claims that Russia was responsible for the constant postponements of the plant launch.
Russia has always been committed to its international contracts and his country has also fulfilled its commitments to Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, Kiriyenko said, adding that after this stage of fuel loading, "we should witness power generation by the plant by the end of the year (2010)."
The construction of the nuclear plant began in 1975 by German companies, but was halted after the United States imposed embargo on hi-tech supplies to Iran following Iran's 1979 revolution. Russia signed a contract with Tehran in 1995 to complete the construction.
Bushehr power plant operates under the IAEA supervision and any country which performs under the supervision of IAEA has the right to peaceful nuclear energy, said Kiriyenko.
Asked about the cooperation for constructing further nuclear power plants in Iran, Kiriyenko said that "at the moment no talks over constructing other power plants is underway. We are now focusing on the project (of Bushehr power plant) at hand."
"Transparent cooperation with IAEA are important and if this point is observed, we will cooperate with Iran and other countries, " he added.
Meanwhile, Salehi hailed Iranians' resistance to Western sanctions, saying the startup of Bushehr power plant is an embodiment of Iran's steady persistence to achieve its legitimate goals.
Despite the sanctions against Iran, "we are now seeing the startup of the nuclear power plant," he said.
This is a "direct lesson" to those who wanted to hinder Iran's progress by imposing sanctions, he stressed.
On Saturday, Iran and Russia signed three Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) on nuclear cooperation in the presence of Sergei Kiriyenko and Ali-Akbar Salehi.
On the basis of the agreement, the two sides agreed to establish a joint company to observe the safe use of the facilities in Bushehr power plant.
They also agreed to recognize Bushehr establishments as unclear facilities from the load of fuel, starting from Aug. 21 to the launch of the facility which will almost last for two months. Both side will take necessary measures before the launch of the plant.
According to earlier reports, 163 fuel rods will be transferred into the core of the reactor by Sept. 5 after the required inspections.
Rosatom corporation had announced that Russia is set to activate the reactor at Bushehr nuclear power plant on Aug. 21.
Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesmen Ramin Mehmanparast told IRNA on Saturday that launching of Bushehr nuclear power plant indicates that Iran will pursue its "next peaceful nuclear programs with high speed."
Mehmanparast said that loading fuel into Bushehr power plant and its connection with the country's main electric circuit will mark a great step towards launching nuclear installations in Iran.
"Iran will accelerate the implementation of its upcoming ( nuclear) programs," Mehmanparast was quoted as saying.
Loading Bushehr power plant with fuel is the outcome of the country's planning to take the advantage of peaceful nuclear technology for progress, he said.
"The completion of Bushehr power plant reveals the fact that we are both committed to the IAEA Safeguards Agreement and are serious in peaceful use of nuclear technology," he added.
In the first reaction to Iran's nuclear power plant fuel load, the U.S. State Department said Saturday that Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant has "no proliferation threat."
The department also said the plant showed that Iran does not need to be able to enrich nuclear fuel by itself, according to news reports in the United States.
Western powers suspect Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons despite Tehran's claims that it will be used only for generation of civilian energy.