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Earthquakes in Iran shake Gulf country leaders into discussing nuclear safety

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Source: BBC News

  

Two earthquakes one week apart near Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant not only shook buildings across the Gulf, but also shook the leaders of Gulf countries.  They are now rushing to take a close look at nuclear safety.  The Bushehr power plant sits right across the Gulf from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia’s main oil export terminals.  Any Fukushima-type event in Bushehr will affect millions of people in the region and will surely hit world markets as the Gulf’s main oil export routes are only a short distance away.

 

The quake was felt across the Gulf in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain.

Bushehr’s governor Fereydun Hasanvand told Iranian television that of those wounded, 750 had “minor injuries” and the rest had been sent to provincial hospitals.

Some 10,000 people are thought to live in the affected area in more than 50 villages, two of which have reportedly been completely levelled.

Mr Hasanvand said 700 houses have been damaged and 200 families affected.

Seismologists said the quake struck at 16:22 (11:52 GMT) at a depth of 10km (6.2 miles) near the town of Kaki, south of Bushehr – a Gulf port city that is home to Iran’s first and only nuclear power plant.

Iran’s seismological centre in Bushehr province, linked to Tehran University, registered the quake at a magnitude of 6.1.

Tens of aftershocks – the strongest measuring a magnitude of 5.4 – struck within an hour, sending many people into the streets for safety.

State media reported that phone lines had been brought down by the quake and its aftershocks.

The earthquake shook buildings across the Gulf.

“Our entire building started to wobble from side to side for around 30 seconds or so,” Phil Stevens, working on the 10th floor of a building in Abu Dhabi, told the BBC.

“It was a very strange sensation, rather like being on a rocking boat. We evacuated our office and quickly learned of the earthquake in Iran.”

The governor of Bushehr, Fereydoun Hassanvand, told Iranian state TV that the nuclear plant was not damaged.

An official with the Russian firm Atomstroyexport told Russian media that the quake “in no way affected the normal situation at the reactor”.

“Personnel continue to work in the normal regime and radiation levels are fully within the norm,” the official was quoted by Russian state news agency Ria as saying.

Iran’s nuclear programme has roused concern among major powers that Tehran wants to build nuclear weapons – a charge Iran strongly denies.

Iran straddles a major geological fault line, making it prone to seismic activity. In 2003, an earthquake in the city of Bam left more than 25,000 people dead.

Read the full story from BBC News.

 

Iran’s neighbors have come to realize that any issue with the Bushehr power nuclear plant will directly affect them.  These concerns of course come after the results of natural disasters on Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant.  The added concern with Bushehr is that it sits on a known fault line and was designed and developed by Russia decades ago, but only completed about two years ago.

 

The Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC, has expressed deep concerns over the possible radiation leaks following an earthquake in the area and called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to rush inspectors to check the vulnerability of the Bushehr nuclear plant.

“The GCC has asked the IAEA to send a special technical team to inspect the plant and investigate potential damage,” GCC chief Abdullatif Al-Zayani said.

The GCC is comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates, with Jordan and Morocco having been invited to join the council.

Iran is the only country operating a nuclear power plant that does not belong to the international convention, negotiated after the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, which contaminated a wide area and made 160,000 Ukrainians homeless.

The meeting was called to discuss the risk of radiation spreading over the Gulf if Iran’s nuclear power plant is damaged by another earthquake or by any other natural or unnatural occurrence.

The nuclear plant on earthquake-prone Iran’s southern coast is a major risk for the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which can be the first victims of any radiation depending on the direction of the wind.

Al-Zayani urged Tehran to maintain full transparency in its nuclear file, join the agreement on nuclear safety and enforce maximum safety standards in its facilities.

He added that Tehran has not been complying with the nuclear safety guidelines. Al-Zayani said that “the Gulf states must have a joint plan to collectively deal with any possible leak from the Iranian facility.”

He said the Gulf states have previously urged Tehran to ensure that its facility complies with international safety standards and join the Convention on Nuclear Safety, but Tehran did not pay any attention.

The GCC officials reviewed the emergency plans of the individual member states. Gulf states are also working to establish a center to monitor nuclear radiation. This is in addition to the rapid deployment team created by the GCC to face repercussions of a possible accident at Bushehr plant, which is located just across the Gulf waters.

A report by the Geneva-based Euro-Arab Environment Organization published recently warned that the GCC states could be the first victims of any nuclear radiation from the Iranian plant.

In the event of any radiation leak, “Saudi Arabia and Kuwait can be hit first in case the wind is blowing from north to the south,” said the report.

It said that although the nuclear plant is located on Iranian territory, it is estimated that around 10 percent of that country’s population could be affected by radiation, while 40-100 percent of the GCC population could suffer.

Read the story from the Albany Tribune.