Iran will soon announce an international tender for building 19 nuclear power plants, an MP was quoted as saying, a week after Russia said it had begun fuel deliveries to the Islamic state's first such facility.
Kazem Jalali, a spokesman for parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, said each power plant would have a capacity of 1,000 megawatt of electricity, the Iran News daily reported on Monday, without giving further details.
Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil exporter, is embroiled in a dispute with Western powers who fear its nuclear programme could be used to build an atomic bomb. Tehran says it is aimed at generating electricity.
The UN Security Council is discussing a possible third round of sanctions against Iran over its refusal to suspend its sensitive atomic work.
Russia said on December 17 it had delivered the first shipment of nuclear fuel to the Bushehr power plant in southern Iran, a step Moscow and Washington said should convince Tehran to shut down its own disputed uranium enrichment activities.
Iran, however, said it would not halt its efforts to enrich uranium, a process to make fuel for power plants that can also provide material for atomic weapons, if refined much further.
Iranian officials say domestically-produced fuel is needed for other power plants it wants to build as part of a planned network with a capacity for 20,000 MW by 2020.
Jalali, whose comments were initially carried by the official IRNA news agency on Sunday, suggested the tenders were in line with these plans. "The contract for building 19 power plants ... will in the near future be put on an international tender," IRNA quoted him as saying.
Another Iranian official said in April Tehran would launch tenders for two new nuclear plants, but it has yet to announce any outcome.
The Russian company building Bushehrsaid last week it would not be operational until at least the end of 2008.
Atomstroiexport is building the Bushehr nuclear reactors, with the fuel supplied from Russia's state atomic energy agency, under a $1bn contract.
Russia says Bushehr is being built under the supervision of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, ruling out any military use for the fuel or technology. (Reuters)