Safety of Bushehr NPP raises questions

Safety of Bushehr NPP raises questions

Azerbaijan, Baku, April 7 /Trend, T.Konyayeva/

Despite the use of obsolete component parts in the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant upon Iran's insistence, serious problems should not arise if the reactor is operated properly, said the director of the Russian Center for Public Policy Research Vladimir Yevseev.

"The concern is caused by use of equipment that was manufactured in Germany in the 70s of last century, and therefore, no one can guarantee that there will not be any problems with the reactor, Yevseev, a member of Trend Expert Council, told by telephone from Moscow. - But I think that problems can be avoided with proper maintenance."
Repetition of the Japanese tragedy at the Bushehr nuclear power plant being built in the Islamic Republic by the Russian specialists does not threaten, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said earlier this week.

"Fukushima was constructed based on 40-50-year-old technology, while the latest technology was used in the construction of the Bushehr plant and all work is carried out by Russian specialists in compliance with the standards and under strict supervision by the IAEA," Ahmadinejad said to a press conference in Tehran.

After accidents in Japan, concerns arose about nuclear facilities in Iran as its only nuclear power plant is located in a seismic zone.

However, a professor at Princeton University Frank Van Hoppel says he doesn't have any reason to believe that Russian-design nuclear power plants are inherently safer than Japanese or US nuclear power plants.

"They all should be looked at again in light of the Fukushima accident," Hoppel, Director of Program on Science and Global Security, wrote in an e-mail to Trend.

However, Russian expert says the facilities in Fukushima and Bushehr are different. "Nuclear power plant in Fukushima is of Chernobyl type, but unlike the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, each reactor in Japan contained so-called metallic glasses, which enable to increase security, he said. - But they were damaged during the melting of the uranium rods, so in Fukushima we have a mini-Chernobyl."

Regarding the nuclear power plant being built by Russia in Bushehr, Yevseev said it is another one, not like the Chernobyl type.

"It [the Bushehr nuclear power plant] is much more reliable, he said. - Despite that Russia could agree on the use of only ten percent of the approximately 100,000 components manufactured in 70s in Germany."

Bushehr nuclear power plant began to be built by the German Kraftwerk Union concern in 1974, but in 1980 it terminated the contract because of Western German government's accession to the U.S. embargo on supplying equipment to Iran. Since the 1990s, construction of the power plant has been carried out by the Russian specialists.
Aug.25, 1992 Russia and Iran signed an agreement to continue constructing nuclear power plant. In January 1995, a contract to complete the works on the first power unit was signed, and in 1998 construction management was transferred to AtomStroyExport.
The Bushehr plant was originally scheduled to be completed in 1999 but the work has repeatedly been postponed in connection with financial and technological difficulties, and also because of several suspensions of construction under U.S. pressure.

Physical launching of Bushehr nuclear power plant began in August 2010. The station began the formation of the active zone in October 2010. Uranium rods were placed in the reactor. This is one of the final stages of preparing the station to be launched.
To include the Bushehr NPP in Iran's power grid had been planned by the end of 2010. In December, the press service of AtomStroyExport reported that the loading of nuclear fuel was successfully completed at the site of Bushehr nuclear power plant. However, due to new technical problems, the station has not been incorporated into the power grid.

In late February, because of a technical problem with one of the cooling pumps, Russia demanded to unload fuel from the reactor in Bushehr, and the Iranian side agreed with this requirement for security reasons.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the problem of Russian-built nuclear reactor in Bushehr is only technological and will be resolved within two to three months.
Initially, the problem was laid on Iranians, but not Russia, said Yevseev.
"Iran has firmly insisted on using its equipment, he said. - In this case, the German side refused to provide any technical documentation. We had to test ourselves, the reactor was damaged by bombing. There were many technical problems that were solved by Russia" .

All these create some risk, so one can not exclude a scenario similar to Fukushima, said Yevseev.

However, while Russian specialists are at the Bushehr nuclear power plant, major problems should not arise, the expert said.

"But how will the work be after Russian specialists go from there, and the facility will be served by the Iranian specialists?," Yevseev asked a question.

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