Libmonster ID: UK-1345
Author(s) of the publication: H. BARARI REIKANDE

H. BARARI REIKANDE (Iran), Post-Graduate Student, Saint Petersburg State University

Keywords: nuclear power industry, Iran, Russia, Bushehr NPP, image of Russia

Nuclear energy is one of the key and priority factors in Russian-Iranian relations. Russia closely cooperates with the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) in the nuclear energy sector and is considered the main partner of this country in the implementation of its nuclear program. Russia's main energy project in Iran is the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant. Despite numerous technical problems, political obstacles and pressure from the West and Israel, the first unit of the Bushehr nuclear power plant has already been built by Russian specialists and handed over to Iran for operation.

The time has come to examine all aspects of Russian-Iranian cooperation in the nuclear sphere and assess the impact on further energy cooperation between the two countries in the context of normalization of Iran's relations with the West. As part of this study, it is important to describe the current state of joint work between Iran and the Russian Federation in the nuclear energy sector; assess the problems that may arise in their cooperation; and consider the prospects for the development of this cooperation.

"COOPERATION SYMBOL" AND "INTERACTION VECTOR"

The main stages of construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant are as follows. The works were started in 1974 by the German concern Kraftwerk Union AG (Siemens / KWU). But in 1980, he broke the contract with the Iranian customer because of the German government's decision to join the American embargo on the supply of equipment to Iran.

On August 24, 1992, the Governments of the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran signed an agreement on cooperation in the field of peaceful uses of atomic energy and on August 25, 1992 signed an agreement on the construction of a nuclear power plant in Iran. In January 1995, a contract was signed to complete the construction of Unit 1 of the Bushehr nuclear power plant. In 1998, an addendum to the contract was signed, according to which JSC Atomstroyexport will complete the construction of the first unit of the NPP with an installed electric capacity of 1000 MW on a turnkey basis.

In 2001, the delivery of the main technological equipment began, and in 2009 - 2010, its hydraulic tests and tests of the steel protective shell were carried out. In July 2010 A hot run-in of the nuclear steam generating unit took place, and on August 21 of the same year, the physical start-up of the Bushehr NPP began. Earlier, under the supervision of IAEA inspectors, nuclear fuel was delivered to the reactor compartment of the plant. On May 8, 2011, work on bringing the nuclear steam generating unit to the minimum controlled power level was completed [1]. In September 2013, with a slight delay, Russia handed over the first power unit of a nuclear power plant to Iran.

The Bushehr nuclear power plant is extremely important in Russian-Iranian cooperation. On July 2, 2013, former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the second summit of Heads of State and Government -

page 32

During the Forum of Gas Exporting Countries in Moscow, he called the Bushehr nuclear power plant "a symbol of Russian-Iranian cooperation" [2]. At the same time, Ahmadinejad noted that Iran would like to build a number of more nuclear power plants with the help of Russia.

After President Hassan Rouhani came to power, the new government decided, despite the current difficult economic situation in Iran, not to abandon plans to build a new nuclear power plant. President Rouhani said at his first press conference after taking office that the Iranian government will continue negotiations with Russia on the development of nuclear energy in the country and expects to build new nuclear power plants. In particular, he said :" We have been negotiating on this issue for a long time. I hope that everything will develop on schedule, and Iran will be able to continue building nuclear power plants and continue cooperation" [3].

It is appropriate to recall the words of Hassan Rouhani's message on the occasion of the transfer of the Bushehr nuclear power plant by Russia to the Iranian side: "Thanks to the bilateral cooperation of Iran and Russia and despite the delay (with the transfer of the nuclear power plant), today the stage of temporary transfer of the Bushehr nuclear power plant begins. Bilateral cooperation between Iran and Russia over the past few decades has been characterized by progressive movement, and the Bushehr NPP is an example of such cooperation, as well as a vector for cooperation in other areas [4].

FROM ENERGY PROJECTS TO PARTNERSHIPS

The Russian side has already made it clear that it welcomes Iran's new proposals to develop bilateral cooperation, especially in the energy sector.

In August 2013, State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin, after a meeting with his Iranian counterpart, said that after the Bushehr nuclear power plant was fully commissioned, Russia hoped to hold consultations to expand cooperation between Moscow and Tehran in the field of peaceful nuclear energy [5].

On February 16, 2014, Deputy Director of the state-owned company Rosatom N. Spassky at a meeting with the new Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Russian Federation Mehdi Sanaei noted that Russia and Iran are two great and powerful countries with great potential for cooperation in the field of nuclear energy. "This area can become a worthy basis for long - term cooperation between the two countries," Spassky stressed [6].

Some experts believe that at one time it was Iran that literally helped the Russian nuclear industry and nuclear engineering with its orders related to the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant. About 300 Russian companies participated in the implementation of the contract for the construction of this nuclear power plant. It is estimated that the contract created or saved about 20 thousand jobs [7]. More than 4,000 people were employed at the Bushehr site alone, half of them Russian specialists. Russia also participated in the training of Iranian personnel required for the operation of the power unit. By 2004, out of 707 Iranian personnel, 286 were trained in Russia, and 341 were trained directly at the Bushehr NPP site [8].

During the negotiations on the construction of a new nuclear power plant, representatives of Iran and Russia started discussing another topic - the participation of Russian companies in Iranian oil projects. Russian technologies in this area are no less competitive than in the nuclear power industry. As the new Iranian Ambassador to Moscow Mehdi Sanaei noted at a meeting with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, the Russian co-chair of the joint Iranian-Russian Commission on Economic Cooperation,"...Energy is the engine of economic relations between the two countries, and if exchanges in the energy sector are further developed, then other economic agreements will also be implemented "[9]. Therefore, even after the normalization of relations between Iran and the West, the chances of Russian companies participating in Iranian economic and investment projects are very high, in our opinion.

PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS

However, there are certain external and internal obstacles to the further development of Russian-Iranian economic cooperation. Although political figures of the two countries often claim that there is a political will to develop bilateral relations, and, according to

page 33

according to former Iranian Ambassador to Russia M. Sajjadi,"...Today, there is almost no other state like Russia that has so many common interests and views with Iran" [10]. Nevertheless, there are many problems on the way to expanding Russian-Iranian cooperation, including in the energy sector.

So, when the West tightened sanctions against Iran, representatives of a number of Russian companies stated that for this reason they could not cooperate with Iranian business - this is not allowed by their Western partners. And this is understandable: The West has always sought to oust Russian business from the Iranian market. But there is another problem: during the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the image of Russia as an economic partner of Iran really deteriorated somewhat. Not all Iranians consider this nuclear power plant a symbol of cooperation with the Russian Federation. It is also widely believed that the Bushehr nuclear power plant is a vivid example and symbol of Russia's unreliability in implementing the agreements.

The postponement of the Bushehr NPP start-up due to technical reasons was regarded by the country's public opinion as a concession to Russia's pressure from the West [11]. The long delay in putting the nuclear power plant into operation has led to the fact that now many Iranians believe that cooperation with the Russian Federation is fraught with a certain risk. Despite the Russian side's explanations that the delays were due to technical reasons, many in Iran did not believe this and believe that Russia deliberately delayed the construction of the nuclear power plant in order to use the "Iranian map" to its advantage in relations with the West.

This opinion became even more widespread after Russia failed to fulfill its obligations under the deal on the supply of S-300 air defense systems. In November 2009, the Persian service "RIA-Novosti" conducted a survey on the Internet, the topic of which was the attitude of Iranians to the Russian Federation. Respondents were asked the following question: "What is your opinion about the image of Russia?". As a result, it turned out that almost 94% of respondents considered the image of Russia "negative" [12].

Thus, the country's image in Iran needs to be improved. Opportunities for Russian companies to participate in Iranian economic projects, including in the energy sector, are also not being used sufficiently.

By the way, Russian business has good prospects in this area. The Iranian Atomic Energy Organization is developing a plan to build about 20 new nuclear power plants in the long term. According to the President of this Organization, Salehi, negotiations are already underway with the Russian side on the construction of four new nuclear power plants in Bushehr [13]. Timely implementation of new agreements on the construction of these power plants is a chance for Russian businesses to restore their reputation in Iran. This is also important because there are good prospects for the development of Russian-Iranian cooperation in the oil and gas sectors.

As a result of changes in Iran's foreign policy under President Rouhani, the process of improving the country's relations with the international community is gaining momentum. Iran is becoming one of the centers of international diplomacy. After the Geneva talks between Iran and the 5+1 group, held in November 2013, some sanctions were lifted, and Iran immediately turned into a "tasty morsel" for foreign companies. Thanks to the easing of sanctions, new opportunities have emerged for Russia to expand cooperation with Iran.

Now Moscow and Tehran can strengthen their bilateral political partnership more vigorously and quickly. Expanding cooperation between the two countries in the energy sector can also accelerate these processes. Moreover, the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant is already a "well - trodden road" for successful joint work in the field of nuclear energy.


1. Official website of Atomstroyexport CJSC: Bushehr NPP - http://www.atomstroyexport.ru/about/projects/ current/busher/

2. Official website of the President of Russia, 02.07.13 -http://kremlin.ru

3. Iran will continue negotiations with Russia on nuclear development in Iran - http://ria.ru/world/20130806/954670877.html

4. Rouhani: Iran is interested in nuclear cooperation - http://ria.ru/world/20130923/965298755. html

5. Iran will continue negotiations with Russia on the development of atomic energy in Iran...

6. Website of the Iranian Embassy in Russia, 16.02.14 -http://iranembassy.ru

7. Threats to the nuclear non-proliferation regime in the Middle East / Edited by A. Arbatov and V. Naumkin, Moscow Carnegie Center, 2005, p. 25.

8. Business IRAN (http://www.polpred.com). Volume VI, p. 40.

9. Website of the Iranian Embassy in Russia, 08.04.14 -http://iranembassy.ru

10. Russian service of Radio Iran, 17.10.12 http://russian.irib.ir

11. Dunaeva E. V. Russian-Iranian relations-a view from Tehran - http://www.iimes.ru/rus/stat/2010/29 - 04-10a.htm

12. RIA Novosti Persian Service, 07.12.09 -http://pe.rian.ru

13. Iranian newspaper "Resalat", N 7981, 02.12.13 -http://www.resalat-news.com


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