The Next Chernobyl?
By KHOSROW B. SEMNANI and GARY M. SANDQUIST
Published: January 2, 2013
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH ó The showdown over Iranís nuclear program is likely to accelerate in 2013 as sanctions tighten, Israel threatens military strikes, and the centrifuges keep spinning. While most attention will be focused on the two most oft-discussed sites of uranium enrichment ó Natanz and Fordow ó a third site on the gulf could prove to be this yearís most dangerous nuclear wild card.
Bushehr, however, could turn out to be the most dangerous piece of Iranís nuclear puzzle for another reason: haphazard planning and ongoing technical problems mean it could be the next Chernobyl, igniting a humanitarian disaster and explosive economic damage across the oil-rich region.
Technical problems in the past 12 months have raised serious concerns about Iranís capacity to competently operate the facility. The plant was shut down in October to limit potential damage following the discovery of stray bolts found beneath its fuel cells, the Reuters news agency reported, citing a Russian industry source. Western officials expressed concern about the plant after an I.A.E.A report in November stated that Iran had informed the agency about unexpected fuel transfers. Last week, the emir of Kuwait, Sheik Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, called upon Tehran to work more closely with the I.A.E.A. ďto ensure the safety of the regionís state and its people.Ē
Iran is the only country operating a nuclear power plant that hasnít signed the 1994 Convention on Nuclear Safety. The international community should push Iran to sign the treaty with the same vigor that it pushes Iran to disclose information about its suspected weapons sites. Even countries like Israel, India and Pakistan ó none of which have signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty ó have signed the Convention on Nuclear Safety.