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For Iran, energy woes justify nuclear push

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The next time politicians across the political spectrum speak to Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, "about the merits of suspension versus the merits of going forward, [those] who want to go forward are going to use this [India] example to back their case," says Mr. Javedanfar.

Such politics aside, "Iran's requirement for nuclear energy is justified," says Javedanfar. "It is very important for Iran to find other sources of energy, especially nonoil and nongas."

Iran has some of the largest oil and gas reserves in the world. But rising electricity consumption, huge subsidies, waste, and a drought have led to power shutdowns for two to four hours per day at peak hours.

Energy officials say consumption has soared 8 to 10 percent a year for the past 15 years and that reserve capacity is low. They calculate a 37,000-megawatt need this year, but with shortfalls of 2,000 or 3,000 megawatts in the worst periods.

The Russian-built nuclear reactor at Bushehr is to produce 1,000 megawatts, but has experienced chronic delays and may not be on-line by year's end.

"The past couple of summers we have been right on the edge," says Mohammad Ahmadian, the British-educated deputy minister of energy for 11 years in Iran who now advises the minister. Gas turbine and even some coal plants are due to be built in coming years.

In August, Iran's Atomic Energy Organization issued contracts to six local companies to find sites for new atomic plants. Officials have spoken of plans for 19 more 1,000-megawatt plants.

"We have a serious need of nuclear power," says Mr. Ahmadian. He adds that a matrix developed by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, which includes all of a country's energy variables, shows that Iran will need "a considerable number" of nuclear power plants in the future.

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