KHARTOUM Aug 22 (Reuters) - Sudan is planning to build a nuclear reactor and its first nuclear power plant for peaceful electricity purposes by 2020, the state news agency SUNA said.

Sudan's economy has suffered under U.S. sanctions since 1997 and from decades of warfare, But it has managed to hike oil production to 470,000 barrels per day, boosting growth.

It has also built dams along the Blue and White Niles, which merge in Sudan, to generate power. But large swathes of the country remain without regular electricity.

SUNA quoted Mohamed Ahmed Hassan el-Tayeb, director-general of the Sudanese Atomic Energy Agency, as saying the government had begun to plan in early 2010 to develop nuclear energy.

"The Ministry of Electricity and Dams has already started preparing for the project to produce power from nuclear energy in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and is expected to build the first nuclear power plant in the year 2020," SUNA said a report on Saturday.

Tayeb said an IAEA delegation would visit Sudan to discuss the project this week. Sudan has been an IAEA member since 1958 and can develop nuclear energy with IAEA assistance.

Sudan has close economic and political ties with Iran, which is locked in a dispute with the United States and some of its its allies over its nuclear programme.

(Reporting by Opheera McDoom)