Aug 21 (Reuters) - Russia started loading fuel into the
reactor at Iran's first nuclear power station, on Saturday, an
irreversible step marking the start-up of the plant.

The West suspects Tehran of seeking to produce its own
nuclear bomb and has been critical of Russia's involvement in
building the power plant at Bushehr. Russia says it is purely
civilian and cannot be used for any weapons programme.

Here are some important facts about Bushehr:

ABOUT BUSHEHR:

* The Bushehr plant is on the Gulf coast of southwest Iran.
It is Iran's first nuclear power plant.
* The Bushehr nuclear facility is associated with the city
of the same name, but is actually located near Halileh about 12
km (8 miles) south of Bushehr proper. The site is also the
location of Iran's Nuclear Energy College.

* Construction of two pressurised water nuclear reactors
began in 1974 with the help of German contractor Siemens and
French scientists. The Bushehr I reactor was 85 percent complete
and the Bushehr II reactor was partially complete prior to the
1979 Iranian Revolution.

* With the fall of the shah in the revolution, the project
was halted. The site was then damaged during the 1980-88
Iran-Iraq war, and equipment was looted.

* The project was later revived with Russian help but
construction ran into repeated delays blamed by Russia on
problems with receiving payment from Iran. Current plans are for
one reactor to be launched.

* Bushehr will have an operating capacity of 1,000
megawatts. Iran, the world's fifth largest oil exporter, has
said it wants to build a network of nuclear power plants with a
capacity of 20,000 megawatts by 2020 to enable it to export more
of its bountiful oil and gas.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS:
* Russia said in January 2010 it would finish building the
Bushehr plant this year.
* Russian officials said in February that testing of the
leak-tight enclosure system had been completed. This system
would prevent the release of radiation into the environment in
the event of any failure in the primary circuit, as well as
protecting primary equipment from external impacts.

* Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced the
start-up in March 2010, but visiting U.S. Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton said such a decision would be "premature"
without Iranian assurances on its uranium enrichment programme,
which the West fears is aimed at producing atomic weapons.

* Iran has received nuclear fuel for Bushehr from Russia and
will be obliged by contract to return all spent fuel rods to
Russia, an arrangement that eased U.S. concern Iran could
reprocess the material into weapons-grade plutonium.

CONCERNS OVER BUSHEHR:

* Switching on the Bushehr plant could still dismay some in
the United States, Israel and Europe who are deeply suspicious
of the Islamic Republic's development of nuclear expertise and
its ultimate nuclear intentions.

Sources: Reuters/World Nuclear News