TEHRAN, (UPI) - Iran's nuclear plant in Bushehr is entering its final testing stage and is expected to become fully operational by early next year, an Iranian official said.
"The preparations for the handover of the power plant by the Russian contractor to Iranian experts will be made in the near future. After various tests and experiments at the Bushehr power plant, we will begin the preliminary launch of the project by Iranian experts between December 21 to February 18,2013," the Mehr news agency said Fereydoun Abbasi, director of Iran's Atomic Energy organization, told reporters at Bushehr Saturday.
Last month Valeryi Limarenko, the director general of NIAEP, who manages the construction of the plant for the Russian contractor Atomstroyexport said it is possible the plant won't be handed over to Iranian experts until March next year due to technical problems, the agency said. Limarenko said that even after Iran takes control of the plant, some 300 Russian experts would remain at the site to assist.
The Iranian announcement comes as The Sunday Times says Israel fears a conventional assault on Iran's nuclear site may fail after evidence from unnamed western defense experts revealed that Tehran has hidden its uranium enrichment capacity deep underground, safe from conventional airstrikes.
Recent intelligence reports shows Iran is speeding up its uranium enrichment at the Fordow site and has successfully installed 5,000 twin centrifuges, the British newspaper said.
The experts said this limits Israel's response to two options -- either deploying special forces to perpetrate a ground attack or using ballistic missiles carrying tactical nuclear warheads.