Russia will start up the nuclear reactor it is building at Iran's Bushehr atomic power plant in mid-2010, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.
"We continue work on developing atomic energy capacity both at home and abroad," Putin said at a meeting on nuclear energy in the southern Russian city of Volgodonsk.
"The start-up of the first reactor of the Bushehr atomic power station is planned for this summer," Putin said.
Russia agreed to build the 1,000 megawatt reactor at Bushehr 15 years ago, but delays have haunted the $1 billion project and diplomats say Moscow has used it as a lever in relations with Tehran.
The planned atomic power station -- Iran's first -- was once a source of disagreement between Russia and the West, which suspected the country is building nuclear weapons.
But in recent years, the United States has dropped its opposition and says the plant removes any need for Iran to have its own uranium enrichment programme.
Russia says the plant is purely civilian and cannot be used for any weapons programme as it will come under International Atomic Energy Agency supervision. Iran will have to return all spent fuel rods to Russia.