Bushehr? Earthquake? Disaster?

Japan tsunami and Iran’s quest for nuclear energy


Bushehr? Earthquake? Disaster?
by Hamid Karimianpour

Japan has experienced three vast explosions in its earthquake and tsunami-hit nuclear power plant facilities in four days. The tsunami was triggered by a series of 8.8-magnitude earthquakes and after-shakes in the Pacific Ocean near the cost of Japan. The incident destroyed the cooling system of the nuclear power plants in the coastal area, which led to overheating of the nuclear reactors and subsequent explosions, as the engineers were unable to bring down the temperature inside the reactors.

According to reports obtained by BBC’s Environment correspondent, Richard Black, the suppression chamber of the reactors – which is a large doughnut-shaped construction below the reactor housing – may have cracked as a result of the explosion, allowing radioactive materials to escape into the atmosphere.

The Japanese government has warned that the radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has reached levels harmful to human beings. Although according to weather reports the wind is dispersing most of the radiation over the Pacific Ocean, residents living within 12 miles of the plant have been evacuated and those living within 20 miles of the plant have been urged to stay indoors. A change in wind direction will potentially render a more catastrophic outcome for the people’s health. Higher than normal radiation levels have also been detected in Japan’s capital, Tokyo, which is about 150 miles away from the epicenter of the nuclear plant explosions. Although there is no report of immediate danger in Tokyo, residents in the capital are stocking up on food supplies in case they have to remain indoors for several days.

The latest reports put the official death toll from the quake and the tsunami at about 3,400, with about 10,000 people still missing, but the health ramifications of the radiation is yet to be seen. Radiation levels of up to 400 millisieverts per hour are recorded at Fukushima Daiichi plant. According to experts, 1,000 millisieverts increases the risk of cancer by about 5%. Leukemia, lung, skin, thyroid, breast, and stomach cancers are the most common types of illnesses caused by radiation. Exposure to radiation doses, as small as 100 millisieverts, may slightly increase the risk of cancer. If the radiation reaches the levels of 4,000 to 5,000 millisieverts, potentially half of those exposed to it will die within the span of only one month.

The explosions at the nuclear reactors and subsequent increase in radiation levels have prompted concerns across the world about nuclear safety. Germany has already abandoned its planned extension of the country’s old reactors, as a direct result of the events in Japan. All reactors that were operational before 1980 will now be shot down, according to Chancellor Angela Merkel. Other European countries are stress testing their reactors. The Japanese incident is likely to affect the US’s nuclear policy, as observers increasingly call for alternative sources of energy to avoid a Japanese style catastrophe.

It is time for Iran too to revisit its nuclear ambitions. Unlike Japan, Iran is immune to devastating tsunamis, as Iran possesses no oceanfront. But like Japan, Iran has proven to be an earthquake prone country. An earthquake of a similar magnitude as experienced near the cost of Japan can potentially threaten Iran’s nuclear reactors. Furthermore, Iran’s oil and gas and other industrial sectors have historically suffered from under-investment, grave negligence, and lack of overhaul. If anything, this history raises concerns about the safety of the Iranian nuclear reactors in the long run.

Iran has oil and gas reserves for another 80 years by today’s rate of production. In the long run, the country needs alternative sources of energy, but in the short and medium term it may be better off to divert investment from nuclear programs to its oil and gas sector. Refocusing on oil and gas production and refinement instead of nuclear energy ensures the country a continued source of national income, energy self-reliance at least in the medium term (instead of importing refined petroleum), and it smoothens the country’s international standoff, while sources of energy other than fossil fuel and nuclear can be found.

Hamid Karimianpour is the author of Nation Building or Democracy by Other Means, Algora Publishing, 2011, available on Amazon.com or eBook. Karimianpour studied economics and philosophy at the University of Oslo in Norway. He moved to England, where he obtained an MBA degree from the University of Hull, then did postgraduate studies in philosophy before immigrating to Virginia in 2006. Karimianpour has traveled extensively through Europe and the Middle East.


Recently by Hamid KarimianpourCommentsDate
Which Road to Iran?
Apr 08, 2011
Democracy by Other Means
Apr 01, 2011
Do We Need a Second Fukushima Daiichai in Bushehr?
Mar 18, 2011
more from Hamid Karimianpour

The Japanese are educated

by vildemose on

The Japanese are educated enough to question and not trust the Govt. If this was the USA or Iran, Americans and Iranians would swallow every word.??? Japan Earthquake 2011: Elderly Hard-Hit As Hope For Missing Fades


US military authorizes

by vildemose on

US military authorizes evacuations of families


Hass sounds like a bagger lobbyist for the nuke industry.  "Baggers know those reactors are safe.  Really really safe."



I answer, So what?

by hass on

Sanctions, mismanagement, and aging oil fields and a significant increase in domestic demand have all contributed to the reduction of Iran's oil exports.  Lets not forget that the US encouraged Iran to go nuclear precisely because it was expected that Iran's oil output would eventually fall, as it has.

Now I know that you want to hear the magic phrase "Its all the IRI' fault, and nothing bad would have happened if only the Darling Shah was still in power" but Like I said you need to stop trying to get your personal revenge on the IRI at the expense of the people of Iran and get over 1979.


Hass- answer this please

by Onlyiran on

Why is it that 32 years after the "great revolution", and all of your claimed "technological advances" under the glorious Islamic Republic, Iran is producing 40% less oil than it did 32 years ago?  


Hass is an ever pesent cyber

by vildemose on

Hass is an ever pesent cyber apologists on on the Internet. I don't know if he is Iranian or if he  has family in Iran...He really doesn't care what happens to Iran and Iranians. The only thing that matters to him is survival of Islamic republic.


Join 21st century please.

by hass on

OnlyIran I am not sure who you're directing your strawman argument against but everyone knows that Iran's nuclear program started under the Shah. However that doesn't mean ALL advances can ONLY be attributed to the Shah. Youi guys really need to get over 1979.The Shah is dead, there won't be another. OK?



by hass on

No one says that Iran doesn't have potential for solar energy. THe problem is that solar energy itself is just not a replacement for nuclear power and cannot provide the necessary energy which is why there is even a worldwide shortage of uranium (Even several other MidEastern countries are planning to build reactors.) Iran is already investigating solar power and wind power and has built one of the world's largest hydroelectric dams. 30 countries operate a total of 439 nuclear reactors for electricity generation, which collectively provide about 16 percent of the world's electricity production; 11 nations are building 30 new nuclear power facilities. They're not doing this because they're stupid and hate solar power; they're doing it because they have to.


Iran’s identified uranium ore reserves could produce as much electricity as that from some 45 billion barrels of oil – about one-third of Iran’s proven oil reserves – with almost zero emissions and atmospheric pollution.
Energy Tribune Dec. 11, 2006

Middle East speeds up shift to nuclear power Reuters, Jan 21, 2008

Egypt unveils nuclear power plan

U.S. encourages nuclear power in Jordan

And yet Iran is supposed to turn its back on such a resource because a bunch of fat ass oghdeis sitting exile still have a chip on their shoulder against the regime? Give me a break. Here lets see you put your money where your mouth is: go home tonight and turn off the electricity to your house and live in it for a month THEN come back and talk about how Iran doesn't need nuclear power. Once again you exile OGHDEIs are trying to make the people of Iran suffer to satisfy your own OGHDEH.



by Simorgh5555 on

'Sadly, solar power and magic pixie dust are not going to work, which is why there are hundreds of new reactors being built around the world'

 Nothing can be further from the truth. Iran's position in central asia and landscape make it the perfect for developing solar energy 

 As Ari had written previously:

 "According to a UN report  (probably circa 2004) "The potential for solar electricity generation in Iran is virtually limitless."



Given the expert opinion on this matter please provide proof as to why solar will not work in Iran.  


Oh, Oh, Looks like someone got caught talking from both sides

by Onlyiran on

of his mouth.  

"Back in the 1970s, the US encouraged Iran to go nuclear. Since then, Iran's population has trebled, its oil production has halved, and it uses 40% of its oil domestically."

Really?!!!  I thought that the reason why Iran didn't reach its full potential was because the Shah was a U.S. puppet and the country wasn't allowed to advance.  But now, you're telling me that 32 years after the Islamic Republic, with all its amazing "technological advances", our oil production is half od what it was three decades ago?  WTF?!!!

So, all the hoopla about IRI's "technological advances" were lies?  Oh, wait...I forgot.  It's someone elese's fault...let's see...the "Zionists", the "imperialists", sanctions, blah, blah, blah... 


Don't be stupid.

by hass on

Back in the 1970s, the US encouraged Iran to go nuclear. Since then, Iran's population has trebled, its oil production has halved, and it uses 40% of its oil domestically. A country has to think 80-100 years ahead when planning for something basic like energy. Sadly, solar power and magic pixie dust are not going to work, which is why there are hundreds of new reactors being built around the world. The Bushehr reactor is designed and operated under IAEA inspections. However if there are additional safety concerns about the Bushehr reactor, then the best solution is for the lifting of sanctions to allow Iran to access the necessary technology and know-how to build the reactor correctly rather than giving up and hoping that perhaps one day magic pixie dust will be our source of energy.


Generally I agree

by Ghalandar on

I liked your article but I don't agree that:

"but in the short and medium term it may be better off to divert investment from nuclear programs to its oil and gas sector. Refocusing on oil and gas production and refinement instead of nuclear energy ensures the country a continued source of national income"

Iran has capability and resources to do both. It's not one or the other.