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Concerns about Bushehr – Too Close for Comfort

March 12, 2011

Today’s explosion at the Fukushima 1 nuclear power plant in earthquake-shattered Japan will have the effect of amplifying concerns about the safety of the Bushehr nuclear power station, which lies only a few hundred kilometers downwind of Iraq, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Only four days ago Bloomberg ran a story about the shutdown of the plant and worries about its 30-year old cooling technology:

A shattered cooling pump at Iran’s only civilian nuclear-power reactor, forcing a shutdown during its initial start-up phase, has renewed safety concerns about the hybrid Russian-German power plant on the Persian Gulf coast.

The 1000-megawatt power plant at Bushehr combines a German- designed plant begun under the rule of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in the 1970’s and Russian technology installed over the last decade. Safety questions have raised concern among some nuclear-power experts and in neighboring countries such as Kuwait, which is vulnerable in the event of a radiation leak since it is downwind about 170 miles (275 kilometers).

“The rest of the world is depending on the Russian Federation for policing the nuclear safety of this reactor,” said Mark Hibbs, an expert on Iranian nuclear issues at the Carnegie Endowment for World Peace. The pump failure “raises questions about the decisions the Russians made to move forward with emergency coolant system that’s 30 years old,” he said.

The whole article is here. It points out that Bushehr “sits at the junctionof three tectonic plates”, and last suffered an earthquake in 2002. In the light of the current Japanese crisis, the statement by an American physicist that the risk from a modern nuclear reactor is “extremely low” should perhaps be questioned.

It seems that the plant is in no danger in its present shut-down state. But at some stage it will be fully operational. In the light of the Japanese disaster, a memo to the GCC Council and Iraq: would it not be sensible to revisit the issue with the Iranian authorities?

From → Middle East

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