The nuclear facility at Bushehr is being completed under a 1995 agreement between Russia and Iran for an estimated $800 million. The 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant is located just outside the southern port city of the same name, 750 miles south of Tehran.
Although common known as Bushehr, named after one of Iran’s largest port cities, the light water reactor is actually located just outside Halileh, just south of Bushehr proper.
Begun by German electronics giant Siemens in 1975, Bushehr took 36 years to complete. Following 1979's Islamic Revolution, Siemens and subsidiary Kraftwerke halted construction, and the site languished.
Iraq bombed Iran's two reactors six times during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, severely damaging the plant and obliterating the entire core area of both reactors. In January, Russia said it would finish the plant this year, and it announced completion of construction in early July.
Thousand of Russian nuclear workers were contracted to construct the plant -- 3,000 from 2000 to 2001 alone. After decades of delays, this photo shows workers in its final stages of its construction.
Iranian technicians work with foreign colleagues inside the plant as launch day grows near. The Bushehr plant will have a maximum 1,000-megawatt (MW) capacity, according to the IAEA, with a net capacity of 915 MW. This places it on the small end of the scale. For comparison, the Indian Point Energy Facility in upstate New York has a 2,000-megawatt capacity -- enough electricity to power about 2 million homes.
Russia has said Bushehr is purely civilian and cannot be used for weapons, since it will come under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supervision.
Iranian nuclear plant operators worked hand-in-hand with Russian experts at the Bushehr reactor. Israeli’s Saturday time clock includes concerns that radiation exposure would be deadly for the reactor’s workers once it is fueled up.
The reactor complex is over 600 acres. It includes assembly halls and a concrete channel for cooling water that runs from the reactors to the Persian Gulf. It is also situated close to the harbor to allow for loading and unloading of the materials that will run the reactor.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves during a tour of the country's main fuel manufacturing plant in 2009. The Isfahan Uranium Conversion Facility -- 273 miles south of Tehran -- is said to be the primary location of the Iranian nuclear weapons program. It is Iran’s largest nuclear research center and allegedly employs as many as 3,000 scientists.
But fuel for Bushehr comes from Russia: The 64 tons of low-enriched uranium that Russia has supplied greatly exceeds the 5,300 pounds the Iranians have produced for themselves, according to the IAEA's estimates.
Thanks to Russian nuclear fuel and technology, Iran's first nuclear power plant -- under construction for 36 years -- held an official launch ceremony Aug. 21, and is expected to go online in the next few months. As Iran prepares, the world watches ... and worries.