Iran nuclear power plant stokes worries closer to home, too

Wed Jan 23, 2013 2:18pm EST
 
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By Yeganeh Torbati

DUBAI (Reuters) - For the Iranian government, the Bushehr nuclear power plant is proof to a world worried about Tehran's intentions that its atomic program is aimed only at securing a modern, clean energy source for its people.

But for villagers living next to the facility, as well as Arab capitals nearby, the plant poses a potential danger that is less geopolitical and more immediate: the risk of contamination.

"We are extremely worried about our health and the health of our families," residents of the coastal villages of Heleylah and Bandargah wrote in a statement published on a blog in 2010.

"According to international standards, the distance between a nuclear power plant and the nearest residence must be at least one kilometer ... but the distance between the village of Heleylah and this power plant is just six meters!"

Thousands of people live in the two villages 18 km (11 miles) south of the Gulf city of Bushehr, many of them making their living as service workers at the plant.

Residents living near Iran's nuclear-related sites told Reuters in interviews by phone and over the Internet that the government stifles debate on the pros and cons of the program and where its sites should be located, and has not addressed their questions about what would happen in an emergency.

Iran's Arab neighbors are also nervous. Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates all occupy coastline across from Bushehr, and the plant is closer to five Arab Gulf capitals than it is to Tehran.

Kuwaiti emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah said at a December meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council that Iran should cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency to "ensure the safety of the region's states and its people from any effect of radioactivity".   Continued...

 
A general view of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, some 1,200 km (746 miles) south of Tehran in this October 26, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/IRNA/Mohammad Babaie/Files (IRAN - Tags: POLITICS ENERGY ENVIRONMENT)