Iran’s nuclear power plants ‘an imminent catastrophe’ as drone attacks could trigger ‘the next Chernobyl and war in the Middle East’


Iran’s nuclear power plants are disasters waiting to happen because they are vulnerable to potential drone attacks that could trigger a disastrous meltdown.

A Chernobyl-style nuclear disaster and the potential for a devastating regional conflict to ignite are hanging over the sites, a new report has warned.

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Dr. Bahram Ghiassee, a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, authored the new paper which warns of the threat posed to Iran’s nuclear facilities.

It comes after a series of apparent attacks and sabotage on the sites in recent years amid the regime’s apparent quests for nuclear weapons.

The expert warned that the sites remain highly vulnerable to attack – and could potentially trigger a nuclear disaster like Chernobyl or Fukushima.

And there are also fears that an attack on Iran‘s nuclear power plants could spark a war in the Middle East, potentially in Russia as they help exploit one of Iran’s key sites.

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant is strategically located on the Persian Gulf and also supplies electricity to the regime’s key ally, Russia.

Speaking to The Sun Online, nuclear expert Dr Ghiassee explained how the vulnerability of Iran’s nuclear sites, coupled with the greater accessibility of drones and political tensions in the region, could add to a mix. extremely volatile.

The Bushehr nuclear power plant in southwestern Iran poses a major risk, he said, especially if drones were used to attack its electricity or water supply.

“It’s the only site in Iran prone to a Fukushima-like disaster,” he said, referring to the 2011 nuclear accident in Japan that triggered the evacuation of 154,000 people.

“Although it cannot simply be destroyed by drones, as the reactor is surrounded by reinforced concrete, drones could be used to destroy the cooling water systems, forcing it to shut down.

“This extensive damage, coupled with simultaneous drone attacks on the electrical system, could eventually lead to a collapse.

“It’s not a remote possibility.”

Such a collapse would obviously be catastrophic, not least for the estimated 300,000 people who live near the Bushehr plant, but could have much wider implications for the global balance of power as a whole.

With the Barakah nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates on the other side of the gulf, Dr Ghiassee continued, any incident in Bushehr could disrupt the entire gulf, including the crucial shipping route.

The Gulf region produces almost a third of the world’s oil and holds more than half of the world’s crude oil reserves as well as a significant proportion of the world’s natural gas reserves.

Terrorist groups have used drones in the region to attack oil processing facilities in Saudi Arabia, causing huge fires and disrupting global oil supplies.

But Bushehr also plays another key role in geopolitics which, if disrupted, could prove potentially catastrophic.

“Bushehr takes fuel from Russia to generate nuclear power, and then most of that electricity goes back to Russia.

A uranium conversion facility in Isfahan

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A uranium conversion facility in IsfahanCredit: Reuters
Nuclear sites such as the Bushehr power plant could be a target for drone warfare

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Nuclear sites such as the Bushehr power plant could be a target for drone warfareCredit: Reuters
The country's nuclear program is shrouded in secrecy

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The country’s nuclear program is shrouded in secrecyCredit: AFP

says Dr. Ghiassee. “There are Russian workers stationed there. Any attack on such a Russian-dominated facility could start a war with Russia.”

Russia’s influence in the Middle East is well known, especially in its support for autocratic regional leaders such as President Bashar al Assad of Syria and Turkish head of state Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Just as dangerous radiation from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 reached Western Europe, Ghiassee warns that any disaster in Bushehr could result in a significant amount of radiation affecting millions of people.

Similarly, residual radiation from Fukushima has been found in small doses as far away as California, across the Pacific Ocean.

Fortunately, says Ghiassee, such a catastrophe is unlikely because Iran’s biggest enemy in the region, Israel, also has ties to Russia and would not want to sabotage them and ignite further tensions.

We don’t know what the level of these facilities is

Dr. Bharam GhiasseeResearch Associate, Henry Jackson Society

But he warns that a uranium conversion facility in Isfahan is particularly vulnerable to drone attacks because most of its facilities containing volatile nuclear materials are above ground.

“Iran has the full range of nuclear facilities,” he said, “but Iran is not a member of the International Nuclear Safety Commission, so we don’t know what the standard of these is. facilities”.

Two nuclear fuel enrichment plants in Fordow, near the capital Tehran, and Natanz could also be targets of lone wolf attacks targeting their “auxiliary” facilities such as water supply, electricity and ventilation to cool materials.

With such unstable materials, any potential imbalance could be catastrophic.

Finally, a heavy water plant in Arak could also be a potential target, says Ghiassee.

An airstrike could have devastating consequences in the region

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An airstrike could have devastating consequences in the regionCredit: AFP
The Natanz uranium enrichment plant is one such site with surface facilities

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The Natanz uranium enrichment plant is one such site with surface facilitiesCredit: AP

Heavy water, which is denser than ordinary water, is used as coolant in nuclear power plants.

It is produced and stored in tall columns above the ground, making it an obvious target for drones.

Although not toxic to humans in small doses, it can be devastating to local wildlife, while the ripple effect on Iran’s nuclear industry could be enormous.

Russia is said to be taking much of Iran’s nuclear fuel because it does not want it to be reused for nuclear weapons.

It comes just months after the UN’s nuclear watchdog warned that Iran could produce a nuclear weapon in “months”.

The country’s radical president, Ebrahim Raisi, is said to have accelerated the country’s nuclear program.

A report published in November by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) indicates that Tehran now has 17.7 kg of uranium enriched to 60% purity.

This is one level below the quality of weapons and marked a big increase from the 10kg the country had at the time of the last report in August 2021.

It comes after Iran released a video threatening to assassinate former President Donald Trump last week.

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