lunes, 23 de mayo de 2011

Artículo No. 13 Arabs going nuclear despite Chernobyl and Fukushima Tuesday, 26 April 2011 Notwithstanding the Japanese nuclear disaster and the marking of 25th anniversary ofChernobyl, the Arab world marches undeterred with plans to build civilian nuclear power reactors.

“We don’t have any other alternative,” the Algerian Energy and Mines Minister, Youcef Yousfi, was quoted byAgence-France Presse as saying to the country’s legislators during a briefing on the energy sector.

Like many Arab countries, Algeria’s demand for electricity is growing as population increases.
Mr. Yousfi, who belongs to a quake-prone country, said that Algeria “must prepare itself for this choice,” noting that 10 to 15 years of studies would be needed before construction of its first nuclear power station.

The Chernobyl anniversary, which comes after an earthquake and a tsunami hit Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on March 11, leading to leaks of nuclear radiation, nudged the international community to think afresh about safety requirements at nuclear plants.

On June 20, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will hold a four-day high-level meeting to address nuclear safety in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima crisis.

Meanwhile, the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, speaking at the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster inUkraine, called on Tuesday for new world rules to be drawn up on safety at nuclear plants.

Mr. Medvedev, standing alongside Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich at a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear accident, said the disaster had taught states that they must tell the whole truth to their people.

The Soviet Union, of which Ukraine was then a part, held back news of the full scale of the Chernobyl accident for several days.

“The duty of a state is to tell the truth to its people. It must be acknowledged that the (Soviet) state did not always behave correctly,” Reuters quoted President Medvedev as saying.

His counterpart, Viktor Yanukovich, said, “We are marking a tragic date. Twenty-five years have passed and we have understood that nuclear accidents have colossal consequences for the population.” He added: “The world has understood that such catastrophes cannot be fought by one country on its own.”

Following the nuclear disaster in Japan, experts in Jordan want their energy-poor country to drop its ambitious plans to generate atomic power, despite reassurances by the kingdom’s nuclear regulator.

“The project lacks environmental assessment and feasibility studies,” environment ministry adviser Rauf Dabbastold AFP.
“We do not know its actual cost. We do not know what precautions should be taken to prevent a nuclear catastrophe in the country.”
Jordan has only 1 ton of oil per capita.

But the United Arab Emirates has publicized and dubbed its four nuclear reactors that are being built by the South Koreans as the world’s safest. The UAE said that these reactors could withstand a 7.5 magnitude earthquake.

Saudi Arabia, the world largest oil exporter, also faces fast-rising demand, with domestic electricity needs growing twice as rapidly as its economy.

By 2020, Saudis plans to spend more than $100 billion on power plants and on distribution networks. Meanwhile, the unrest-hit Syria is also considering building its first nuclear power plant by 2020, according to the IAEA.

Egypt also seems on pace to produce nuclear energy within the next decade.

It is estimated that, worldwide, 20 percent of nuclear reactors are operating in areas of significant seismic activity. IAEA has a “Safety Guide on Seismic Risks for Nuclear Power Plants.”

The Russian-built Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran can considerably affect the Gulf Arab states if a quake to hit, despite reassurances that it can withstand a high-magnitude earthquake.

The IAEA said that Bushehr contain some ancient parts, such as cooling pumps, dating back to the 1970s. An earthquake can disrupt the electrical supply, preventing the cooling system from working efficiently, as happened in Japan.

Turkey plans to build a coastal nuclear power plant close to an earthquake-prone area as well, dismissing neighbors’ fears that Japan’s nuclear disaster showed that the new plant could be a risk to the whole Mediterranean region.

After the Japan’s crisis, Western countries including the US, France and Germany have temporarily closed many nuclear power plants that were built prior to the 1980s.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria’s sole nuclear plant at Kozloduy, spotlighted in the 1990s over safety issues, is looking forward to European stress tests, following Japan’s nuclear disaster.

“Our plant is the most controlled one in Europe: 25 missions over the last 12 years, including from the (UN nuclear watchdog) IAEA and WANO (World Association of Nuclear Operators),” Kozloduy’s executive director KostadinDimitrov told AFP recently.

On Tuesday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he would soon submit legislation to parliament on establishing a new organization to supervise nuclear safety in India.

It is one of several steps by the government aimed at calming public anxiety over a planned coastal nuclear complex that some fear could produce a repeat of Japan’s nuclear catastrophe.

India’s government says the proposed new agency to supervise nuclear safety will take over the work of the country’s existing Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, except that it would be autonomous and independent.

(Dina Al-Shibeeb of Al Arabiya can be reached at:

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