News / Middle East

Bushehr Nuclear Plant Located in Earthquake-Prone Iran

The reactor building of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant (file photo)
The reactor building of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant (file photo)

Multimedia

Iran has finished building its first nuclear power plant, at Bushehr, on the coast of the Persian Gulf.  It is expected to be operational later this year. In this second segment of our Nuclear Safety series, we look at the design and construction of Bushehr, and how this facility differs from the Japanese nuclear plant at Fukushima that has suffered major damage in the wake of a massive earthquake.

Northern Japan's massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami left the Fukushima nuclear power plant unable to run its cooling pumps and other safety systems.  Within days, three buildings housing nuclear reactors suffered major explosions.  And, radiation has been released.

Japan is well-known for earthquakes. Its nuclear power industry has said earthquake safety was included in its facility designs.  But recent events have shown that the best of plans sometimes cannot overcome the forces of nature.

Half a world away, another country, Iran, is also well known for earthquakes. Over the years, tens of thousands of people there have died in massive tremors.

Now, Iran is moving into the nuclear age. Its first nuclear power plant, located at Bushehr on the Persian Gulf coast, has been completed. It could begin operating soon.

Construction of Bushehr began in 1974, but was halted by the 1979 Islamic Revolution.  The plant was attacked and damaged in the eight year Iran-Iraq war.  Construction finally resumed in 1995, with Russia taking over from the German company Siemens.

Engineering Professor Muhammad Sahimi, at the University of Southern California, says the threat of earthquakes was carefully considered when the location was selected.  

"The first thing the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran did was extensive studies in terms of the safety of a nuclear reactor from the perspective of earthquakes," noted Sahimi.  "Usually, a nuclear reactor is built in an area where the possibility of a major earthquake is very small.  As far as I know, there is no major active fault in southern Iran where the Bushehr reactor has been built."

The single Russian VVER-1000 reactor installed at Bushehr, with roughly 1,000 megawatts power output, is comparable to its western counterparts.

Senior nuclear scientist Upendra Rohatgi at the U.S. government's Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York is very familiar with this type of reactor.

"The VVER-1000 is the latest Russian design, which is equal to western designs for pressurized water reactors," noted Rohatgi.  "They all have the same safety systems, VVER and the western side [designs], and they all have very good containment systems."

Bushehr's reactor is a completely different design from the much older type that exploded at Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986.  The Iranian reactor, unlike the ones at Chernobyl, is completely encased in a massive concrete and steel containment vessel.

The containment vessel is designed to keep radiation from contaminating the environment should an accident take place. It has multiple layers to provide that protection, as well as strength to stop an impact or explosion from either inside or outside the structure.

Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant has a similar multiple-layer design.  But there are fears that despite the design, at least one reactor containment vessel may have been breached.  That, observers say, would account for at least some of the radiation that has been released.

In the next segment of this series, we'll take a look at the operational and safety training of nuclear plant workers, including those at Bushehr.  Click here for part 1.


Jeffrey Young

Jeffrey Young came to the “Corruption” beat after years of doing news analysis, primarily on global strategic issues such as nuclear proliferation.  During most of 2013, he was on special assignment in Baghdad and elsewhere with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).  Previous VOA activities include VOA-TV, where he created the “How America Works” and “How America Elects” series, and the “Focus” news analysis unit.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in public More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid