Cairo, July 23 : After the American concern over nuclear safety, now the Arab world has started raising questions about the safety of Bushehr nuclear power plant, as it is built in an earthquake-prone coastal area.
With the rising numbers of the earthquakes all across the world in past few days, Arab world has sounded the concerns. But, Mohammad Ahmadian, deputy director of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, has dismissed the concerns.
Issues regarding the Bushehr plant, which officially opened in 2011, were raised during a meeting of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna recently. The reactor lies on the north-east coast of the Arabian Gulf, which poses threat to coastal parts of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman's Musandam Peninsula, in case of incidences of nuclear leak. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had raised the issue after a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck Bushehr Province in south-west Iran on 9 April.
National emergency officials of countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a political and economic alliance between Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, too has had a meeting to discuss this issue. But, Ahmadian had denied that earthquakes could affect the nuclear reactor or cause any safety problems while speaking to Iran's Alalam News Network.
"The reactor is designed to withstand a magnitude 8 earthquake and to automatically shut down if there is a major earth movement," he said.
But GCC has said that, although Iranian officials’ words were "far from reassuring". "Iran should be more forthcoming in allowing international inspection of Bushehr to reassure its own citizens and neighbours about the safety of the plant," GCC has said.
The scientific community too is divided over the issue. Farouk El-Baz, director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University in the United States, says that "the situation may have a drastic environmental effect if neglected". But Mohamed Salama, emeritus professor at Egypt's Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Authority, says it is important not to exaggerate the risk that earthquakes pose to the Bushehr plant. "Fukushima rode out the earthquake safely," he says. "The real disaster came from the tsunami that swept over the sea wall and knocked out the backup generators, leaving the reactors without their cooling systems. The reactors then overheated, there were explosions and radioactive material escaped," he points out.
Officials at IAEA too say that, three factors are closely considered by any country when building a nuclear reactor: active geological fault lines, water availability and population density. IAEA data shows that, there has not been a single case in history where a nuclear reactor has been directly affected by an earthquake, and nuclear power stations cope well with earthquakes.
German firms started building the Bushehr plant in 1975, but work was halted in 1979 following the Iranian Revolution. In 1995, Iran and Russia signed a contract to finish the plant, although financial, technical and political problems led to further delays.
(With inputs from Agencies)