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

Sambisa Forest Stands Between Nigeria, Victory Over Boko Haram

Military takes back nearly all towns, villages in northeast, except for massive expanse of forest that spreads thousands of square kilometers over several states More

Islamic State Recruiting Stokes Fears for Parents in Georgia

Chechens are a notable part of Islamic State's gains in Syria and Iraq, and analysts fear what might happen if those fighters return to the Caucasus More

Yarmouk Camp Becomes Distant Memory for Palestinian Diaspora

Once thriving capital of Palestinian diaspora, after siege by Syrian government forces and Islamic State group, camp becomes 'deepest circle of hell' 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.
Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'i
X
Sharon Behn
April 21, 2015 9:18 PM
A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten. Sharon Behn reports on the politics of the word genocide on the 100th anniversary of the events.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video German Program Helps Migrants Overcome Traumatic Experience at Sea

Migrants fleeing poverty and violence in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia risk life and limb to reach safety in Europe. Those who have made it to European shores are traumatized by the experience. A program in Germany helps survivors overcome the trauma by giving a new perspective to their catastrophic experience. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs