Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cracks in Iran’s nuclear reactor facility following quakes – diplomats

A general view of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, some 1,200 km (746 miles) south of Tehran.(Reuters / Mohammad Babaie)
A general view of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, some 1,200 km (746 miles) south of Tehran.(Reuters / Mohammad Babaie)

Cracks of several meters long have appeared in one concrete section of the facility, claimed diplomats from countries monitoring Iran’s nuclear program. Cracks however were not visible around the highly-radioactive reactor core, they said. Iran’s only power producing nuclear reactor in Bushehr was damaged by earthquakes which struck Iran over April and May, diplomats told AP. Cracks have reportedly appeared in at least one section of the structure.
Tehran did not deny or confirm the report with Iran’s chief delegate to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, telling AP: “I know nothing about Bushehr.” 
Iran has stated that the plant is technically sound and was built to withstand quakes up to magnitude 8.

Russian nuclear specialists examined the facility following the April quake that caused much damage in the neighboring Pakistan killing around 40 and wounded hundreds. 

"The earthquake 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," an official with Atomstroyexport, the Russian company which built the facility, told RIA Novosti. 

The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also said at the time that Iran reported that earthquake caused no damage to the facility. 

“Iran has informed [the IAEA's Incident and Emergency Center] of the event, reporting that there has been no damage to the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant and no radioactive release from the installation,” the agency said in a statement, according to Reuters. 

The safety of the plant was thrown into question following the April quakes, one of which was 7.7, and a subsequent moderate quake in early May. Their severity caused concerns that protective vessels which contain the radioactive material inside the reactors could be cracked. Intense earthquakes can also knock out power and disable cooling systems that prevent overheating and possible meltdown. 

The country has not signed up to a nuclear safety convention put together in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, fuelling fears of damage, which have been exacerbated by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.